Recovering from COVID-19: is lung function back to normal when leaving hospital?
A summary of research published in the European Respiratory Journal
People recovering from COVID-19 may still face some issues with how well their lungs are working. We know from previous outbreaks of coronavirus diseases, such as SARS and MERS, that lung function and ability to exercise can be reduced for months or even years after people have recovered from the disease.
We do not yet know whether this will be the case for people recovering from COVID-19. This study aimed to look at the evidence so far to understand the symptoms people may continue to experience after they are discharged from hospital.
What did the study look at?
The study included 110 people admitted to hospital with COVID-19. Some of these people experienced mild symptoms, while others had more severe symptoms. Each person took a lung function test on the day or the day before they were discharged from hospital. This allowed researchers to look at how well their lungs were working before they went home.
What do the results show?
The results showed two issues with lung function that were common in people leaving hospital.
- Almost half of the people experienced problems with diffusion capacity which is the way the lungs transfer air between the lungs and the blood.
- 27 people experienced restrictions in their lung capacity – meaning that they could not fully fill their lungs with air.
People who experienced more severe COVID-19 symptoms were, as expected, more likely to have more severe problems with their lung function.
Why is this important?
The study suggests that when people leave hospital, their lungs may not be working as well as they did before. The authors suggest that follow-up tests, particularly for people who had more severe forms of COVID-19, would be useful to keep supporting these people in their recovery.
Read the original research paper
Title: Abnormal pulmonary function in COVID-19 patients at time of hospital discharge
Post-COVID-19 survey to help guide research
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