People discharged from hospital after contracting Covid-19 appear to have increased rates of organ damage compared with similar individuals in the general population, a study has revealed.
The research, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, University College London (UCL) and University of Leicester, was based on 47,780 individuals (average age 65 years, 55% men) in hospital in England with Covid-19, who were discharged alive by 31 August 2020.
Participants were matched with controls, based on personal characteristics and 10 years of medical history. Health records were then used to track rates of hospital readmission (or any admission for controls), death from any cause, and diagnoses of respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, kidney, and liver diseases until 30 September 2020.
Over an average follow-up of 140 days, nearly a third of individuals who were discharged from hospital after acute COVID-19 were readmitted (14,060 of 47,780) and more than 1 in 10 (5,875) died after discharge.
National statistician Sir Ian Diamond said: ‘The increase in risk was not confined to the elderly and was not uniform across ethnic groups.
‘The findings contribute to our understanding of the long-term implications of Covid-19, both for patients and our health services.”
Dr. Amitava Banerjee of UCL said: ‘The diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of post-Covid syndrome are likely to require integrated rather than organ or disease specific approaches.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti of the University of Leicester said: ‘Urgent research is needed to understand the risk factors for post-Covid syndrome so that treatment can be targeted better to demographically and clinically at-risk populations.’
This comes after the NHS announced plans to launch a network of more than 40 ‘long Covid’ specialist clinics to help thousands of patients suffering debilitating effects of the virus months after being infected.
The clinics, which were set to open back in November, bring together doctors, nurses, therapist and other NHS staff to physical and psychological assessments of those experiencing enduring symptoms.
Long Covid can be categorised into four different syndromes: post-intensive care syndrome, post-viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘Long Covid is already having a very serious impact on many people’s lives and could well go on to affect hundreds of thousands.
‘That is why, while treating rising numbers of patients who are sick with the virus and many more who do not have it, the NHS is taking action to address those suffering ongoing health issues.
‘These pioneering ‘long Covid’ clinics will help address the very real problems being faced by patients today while the taskforce will help the NHS develop a greater understanding of the lasting effects of coronavirus.’
The full study is available on the BMJ website.
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