Nearly half of COVID-19 patients experience functional decline after hospital stay

A study of COVID-19 survivors found that up to 45% of those who were hospitalized for the virus experienced a significant functional decline after being discharged. …

A study of COVID-19 survivors found that up to 45% of those who were hospitalized for the virus experienced a significant functional decline after being discharged. Researchers said the findings highlight the need for rehabilitation in this patient population post-release. 

The study, which was conducted by Michigan Medicine and published in the journal PM&R, included data from charts of 300 adult patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 between March and April of 2020. 

Researchers found that among patients who experienced functional decline, 80% were referred for additional therapy post-discharge, while nearly 20% of all patients lost so much ability that they were no longer able to live independently upon release. 

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 “These patients may have needed to move to a subacute facility, or they might have needed to move in with a family member, but they were not able to go home,” Alecia K. Daunter, M.D., a pediatric physiatrist at Michigan Medicine, said in a news release. “This has had a massive impact on patients and their families – emotionally and physically.” 

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Even so, the researchers said the numbers are likely underreported, as early on in the pandemic many hospitals moved to minimize patient exposure, so up to 40% of patients in the study never had a rehabilitation evaluation.

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“The major shifts in functioning that we highlight are important, but less dramatic declines in physical and cognitive functioning are likely to be found in nearly all previously hospitalized COVID patients,” Anna Kratz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Michigan Medicine and senior author of the paper, said in the news release. “And we know from decades of rehabilitation work that even subtle changes in functioning can derail a person’s life trajectory. Future work needs to focus on improving our ability to identify and treat people across the full range of the functional decline spectrum.” 

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