In a recent study from the University of Florida, researchers found that among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 who seemingly recovered, severe systemic inflammation during their hospitalization is a risk factor for death within one year.
They also found that common steroids after ‘long COVID’ recovery may cut the risk of death by up to 51%.
Evidence continues to gather that “long COVID,” that is, continued negative health impacts months after apparent recovery from severe COVID-19, is an important risk for some patients.
Previous research found that hospitalized patients who seemingly recovered from severe COVID-19 run more than double the risk of dying within the next year.
In the study, the team examined electronic health records of 1,207 adults hospitalized in 2020 or 2021 after testing positive for COVID-19, and who had been followed up for at least one year after discharge.
They also tested the severity of systemic inflammation during hospitalization.
They used a common and validated measure, the concentration in blood of the molecule C-reactive protein (CRP), secreted by the liver in response to a signal by active immune cells.
The researchers found that the blood concentration of CRP during hospitalization was strongly correlated with the severity of COVID-19:
59.4 mg/L for hospitalized patients who didn’t require supplemental oxygen, 126.9 mg/L for those who needed extra oxygen through non-invasive, non-mechanical ventilation, and 201.2 mg/L for the most severe cases, who required ventilation through a ventilator or through extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
COVID-19 patients with the highest CRP concentration measured during their hospital stay had a 61% greater risk of dying of any cause within one year of discharge.
The team says this study is the first to examine the link between inflammation during hospitalization for COVID-19 and mortality after the patient has ‘recovered’.
They found that the stronger the inflammation during the initial hospitalization, the greater the probability that the patient will die within 12 months after seemingly ‘recovering’ from COVID-19.
Importantly, the team showed that the elevated hazard of death from any cause associated with severe inflammation was lowered again by 51% if the patient was prescribed anti-inflammatory steroids after their hospitalization.
These results mean that the severity of inflammation during hospitalization for COVID-19 can predict the risk of subsequent serious health problems, including death, from long COVID.
They also imply that current recommendations for best practice may need to be changed, to include a more widespread prescription of orally taken steroids to COVID-19 patients upon their discharge.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about drug that can offer much-needed COVID-19 protection, and results showing scientists find new antibody treatment for COVID-19.
The research is published in Frontiers in Medicine and was conducted by Prof. Arch G. Mainous III et al.
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