Long COVID Symptoms, Effects on Quality of Life Can Persist For 1 Year

Patients with post-acute COVID syndrome (PACS, or long COVID) may have symptoms for 12 months following their initial COVID-19 infection, which significantly impacts cognition, ability to work, physical activity, interaction with others, and overall quality of life, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. The investigators said this study is one of the first to measure the impairment and impact of PACS on patients.

“With millions of Americans at risk of developing PACS by the end of the pandemic, a second, longer-term public health emergency has emerged. It is imperative to understand the burden of this novel condition and develop targeted interventions to help patients participate in daily activities, as well as policies that will assist them with their disability and employment status,” said David Putrino, PhD, director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System, in a press release. “This study is a concerning reminder of how severely debilitating PACS symptoms are, the toll they take on health and wellness, and the fact that, without active treatment, these symptoms appear to persist indefinitely.”

The study conducted a retrospective analysis of 156 patients treated at Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care between March 2020 and March 2021, with patients completing surveys evaluating persistent symptoms and triggers of symptom exacerbation a median of 351 days from their first day of infection. The survey asked questions about fatigue, breathlessness, ability to complete moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity, cognitive function, health-related quality of life, anxiety, depression, disability, and their employment status pre- and post-COVID-19.

Among all patients surveyed, 82% reported fatigue, 67% reported brain fog, 60% reported headaches, 59% reported sleep disturbance, and 54% reported dizziness, according to the study. The investigators then performed a more detailed analysis of self-reported cognitive impairment, finding that 60% of patients with PACS reported some level of cognitive impairment and experienced symptoms such as diminished short-term memory, difficulty remembering names, and issues with decision-making and daily planning.

“Many of the symptoms reported in this study have been measured, but for many this is the first time they have been objectively documented using well-validated patient-reported outcomes, and linked to changes in activities of daily living and quality of life,” Putrino said in the release. “The long duration of these symptoms remind us that this is a problem that is not going away, and that we need to aggressively pursue policies that will better support and protect these patients in the long-term. Future research should focus on more detailed monitoring of PACS symptoms—better understanding how and why they are happening will be crucial in developing targeted treatments.”

REFERENCE

Long COVID can negatively impact physical and cognitive function, employment, and quality of life for at least one year [news release]. EurekAlert; October 25, 2021. Accessed October 26, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/932580