Three-quarters of COVID-19 patients followed after being discharged from a hospital in Wuhan had more than one symptom six months later, a Chinese study has revealed.
The study of nearly 2,000 patients, released last week in The Lancet,32656-8/fulltext) is helping to unveil the long-term consequences of the virus that first emerged in December 2019 and has since travelled the globe killing 1.9 million.
The most common symptoms six months after hospitalisation were fatigue or muscle weakness and sleep difficulties, the study authors said, with 76% of patients reported at least one symptom at 6 months after symptom onset.
Fatigue or muscle weakness was reported in 63% of patients whereas sleep difficulties were reported in 23% of study participants. Anxiety or depression was reported among 23% of patients evaluated in the study.
The study included 1,733 patients from the Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan and was completed between June and September 2020.
A total of 2,469 patients with COVID-19 were discharged from that hospital between Jan 7, and May 29, 2020, but some patients were not included.
Thirty-three patients were not included in the study because they died after being discharged due to "exacerbation of underlying pulmonary, heart, and kidney disease".
Three patients developed strokes and one patient had a blood clot in their lung.
The median age of participants in the study was 57 and the most common comorbidity was hypertension followed by diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Chinese study found that those who were more severely ill during their hospital stay had more severe lung impairment and "abnormal chest imaging".
Many researchers have been concerned about the long term consequences of COVID-19, with even some patients with more mild cases stating that they have suffered symptoms of the virus for months as well.
A recent UK-US survey of patients suffering from long-term symptoms of COVID-19, dubbed 'Long Covid' said that most patients had not returned to previous levels of work after six months and that many had still not recovered seven months after infection.
In that study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed and was published on a pre-print server, 205 symptoms in 10 organ systems were recorded.
Seventy-eight per cent of those affected were women and just 8% had been hospitalised.
About 96% of them reported symptoms lasting beyond 90 days.