Scientists from Monash University found six months after recovering from COVID-19 critical illness, one in five people had died, and almost 40% of survivors had a new disability.
The research is published in Critical Care and was conducted by Professor Carol Hodgson et al.
In the study, the team looked at COVID-19 critical illness across Australia between March 6 and October 4, 2020, measuring mortality, new disability and return to work in people who had been admitted to intensive care units.
At six months, 43 of the 212 (20.3%) eligible patients had died, and 42 of the 108 (38.9%) surviving patients who responded to the study reported a new disability.
The team found that 71.3% of surviving patients reported persistent symptoms such as shortness of breath, loss of strength, fatigue, headaches and loss of sense of smell and taste after recovering from the critical illness.
There was also a big decrease in health-related quality of life across all domains, but particular participants reported new problems with mobility (33.9%), usual activities (43.2%) and pain (34.2%), as well as cognitive impairment (33.3%).
In addition, one fifth (20%) reporting anxiety (20.2%), depression (20%) and/or PTSD (18.4%). More than one in 10 survivors were unemployed due to poor health.
With a median age of 61, 58 percent of participants were male with comorbidity of diabetes or obesity. Fifty-seven percent received mechanical ventilation.
Researchers say that because COVID-19 is a new disease, the impact on long-term outcomes in survivors is still emerging.
However, these findings suggest that patients should be screened at hospital discharge for new functional impairments, as the burden of new disability after critical illness with COVID-19 represents an urgent public health problem.
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