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Jan 28, 2021
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How things are with lungs and stamina 4 months after “severe” COVID-19 – research

COVID-19 and lung function

COVID-19 is a disease that affects almost all body systems. But the lungs are most often affected by this infection. It is known that at the microscopic level in the lungs, structures that are responsible for gas exchange are often damaged – the transfer of oxygen to the blood and carbon dioxide to the exhaled air. This can reduce the ability of the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream. Pulmonologists evaluate this function using a special test – measuring the diffusion capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO).

Previously persistent – for months or even years – impaired diffusion capacity of the lungs has been found in people who have suffered severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) Middle East respiratory syndrome. These diseases are caused by other coronaviruses, “relatives” of SARS-CoV-2: SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Decrease in a person’s ability to endure physical activity is often associated with a decrease in DLCO… It has previously been shown that people who have pneumonia from SARS perform worse on walking tests.

What happens in four months

The new study involved 219 people, whose average age was 61. They were hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Scientists conducted tests on the diffusion capacity of the lungs four months after they were discharged from the hospital. Indicator DLCO was less than 80% of the norm in 113 people (51%), less than 60% in 34 (15%).

For people whose mobility was not limited (there were 166 of them), scientists conducted a two-minute walk test. At the same time, they were asked to walk as much distance as possible in two minutes – with the ability to stop if necessary. Functional disorders were found in 128 people (54%): their indicators were worse than the age norm. At the same time, before the test, only 50 people informed the doctors that they began to tolerate exercise worse after an illness.

In about 10% of patients who suffered from shortness of breath in the acute phase of COVID-19, it persisted after four months. Earlier, another study showed that after two months, 40% had it.

In addition, the scientists found that the impairment of perception of taste and smell in the fourth month persisted in 17% of people. Muscle and joint pain was reported by a third of patients who developed these symptoms in the acute phase.

In the study’s findings, the researchers write that four months after being discharged from the hospital, the most common consequence of COVID-19 was poor exercise tolerance. The decrease in lung function found in many patients can lead to a poorer quality of life. The authors also noted that the age of the patients, although associated with a high risk of death with COVID-19, after four months does not affect the residual manifestations of the disease.


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