More than half of COVID-19 survivors experience symptoms of the virus six months after recovery, a new study finds.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University, in Centre County, performed a meta-analysis of previous studies investigating patients who said they still had symptoms months after initially testing positive.
Symptoms such as cognitive impairment, anxiety and chronic fatigue were the most commonly reported after recovering from the virus.
The teams says the implications are large for the health care world going forward, because it suggests millions will be exhibiting serious symptoms, and potentially for years.
More than half of patients experience COVID-19 symptoms six months after recovery (long-term, right), equaling the totals in the short-term and intermediate-term periods after recovery from the virus
Cognitive impairment and difficulty concentrating are common neurological conditions faced by Covid patients after recovery. Many will also develop anxiety after recovering from the virus
More than half people who recovered from COVID-19 were still showing chest abnormalities or required some additional help to breathe comfortably. Just under half of patients also reported some sort of functional impairments
The researchers, who published their findings Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, used 57 studies from 19 countries that included more than 250,000 participants.
Among the participants, nearly 200,000 had been hospitalized due to complications caused by the virus.
Long Covid symptoms were split into short-term, within a month after recovery; intermediate-term, two to five months after recovery; and long-term, symptoms still being felt six months after recovery.
The amount of patients reporting symptoms at each individual stage remained consistent.
Researchers found that 54 percent of patients were experiencing long-term Covid symptoms, near equal to those felling symptoms in the short or intermediate terms.
The amount of symptoms reported after recovery were wide ranging, though, as the virus proved to affect people’s bodies differently.
Just under 40% of people who recover from COVID-19 will experience fatigue even after the virus has left their body
Because of this, the researchers split the symptoms into five different categories: general symptoms, mental health disorders, mobility impairments, neurological disorders and respiratory disorders.
The most common neurological disorders were difficulty concentrating, memory deficits and cognitive impairment.
One study included in the analysis found that more than 40 percent of patients were suffering cognitive impairment after recovery.
Overall, researchers found that one in four patients who recovered from Covid would experience some sort of difficulty concentrating down the line.
The meta analysis found a median of 30 percent of COVID-19 survivors will suffer anxiety after recovery, with one study reporting a figure of around 70 percent, the most common of any mental health disorders.
The most common symptoms were respiratory disorders, in which a median of over 60 percent of patients being found to have chest imaging abnormalities or now required some assistance to breathe comfortably.
Fatigue, categorized as a general symptom, was also common, with a median of just under 40 percent of patients reporting it months after recovery.
All of these symptoms are a result of what medical professionals refer to as long Covid, a mysterious condition that has baffled some experts.
How, or why exactly long Covid affects some is not yet known, though, which makes it tough to treat or cure the condition.
A majority of survivors included in the study were hospitalized, most likely skewing the numbers in the analysis’ findings higher. Pictured: A nurse treats a COVID-19 patient in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
The findings of the Penn State meta analysis show that the scope of long Covid is wider than many may think, with a total of 23 different symptoms tied to the virus whose treatments fall across many fields of medicine.
The researchers believe doctors from disciplines must work together to treat patients and address all of their potential symptoms post-recovery.
‘Our results indicate that clinical management of [long Covid symptoms] will require a whole-patient perspective, including management tools like virtual rehabilitation platforms and chronic care for post–acute COVID-19 symptoms in conjunction with the management of preexisting or new comorbidities,’ researchers wrote in the study.
The study does have limitations, though.
First, a vast majority of participants across all the studies were hospitalized with the virus, meaning the median participant likely suffered a more severe case than the average Covid survivor.
Also, many studies included focused on a specific comorbidity that others did not include, skewing the figures higher since one study looking for that specific symptom could drive up numbers.
This can especially be seen with the respiratory disease category, where an abnormally large amount of people are reporting serious issues.