Epidemiology of post-COVID syndrome following hospitalisation with coronavirus: a retrospective cohort study
Objectives: The epidemiology of post-COVID syndrome (PCS) is currently undefined. We quantified rates of organ-specific impairment following recovery from COVID-19 hospitalisation compared with those in a matched control group, and how the rate ratio (RR) varies by age, sex, and ethnicity. Design: Observational, retrospective, matched cohort study. Setting: NHS hospitals in England. Participants: 47,780 individuals (mean age 65 years, 55% male) in hospital with COVID-19 and discharged alive by 31 August 2020, matched to controls on demographic and clinical characteristics. Outcome measures: Rates of hospital readmission, all-cause mortality, and diagnoses of respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, kidney and liver diseases until 30 September 2020. Results: Mean follow-up time was 140 days for COVID-19 cases and 153 days for controls. 766 (95% confidence interval: 753 to 779) readmissions and 320 (312 to 328) deaths per 1,000 person-years were observed in COVID-19 cases, 3.5 (3.4 to 3.6) and 7.7 (7.2 to 8.3) times greater, respectively, than in controls. Rates of respiratory, diabetes and cardiovascular events were also significantly elevated in COVID-19 cases, at 770 (758 to 783), 127 (122 to 132) and 126 (121 to 131) events per 1,000 person-years, respectively. RRs were greater for individuals aged <70 than [≥]70 years, and in ethnic minority groups than the White population, with the biggest differences observed for respiratory disease: 10.5 [9.7 to 11.4] for <70 years versus 4.6 [4.3 to 4.8] for [≥]70 years, and 11.4 (9.8 to 13.3) for Non-White versus 5.2 (5.0 to 5.5) for White. Conclusions: Individuals discharged from hospital following COVID-19 face elevated rates of multi-organ dysfunction compared with background levels, and the increase in risk is neither confined to the elderly nor uniform across ethnicities. The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of PCS require integrated rather than organ- or disease-specific approaches. Urgent research is required to establish risk factors for PCS.
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