Respiratory impairment persists for weeks post-discharge in hospitalised COVID-19 patients

A study showed persistent pulmonary impairment weeks after recovery from COVID-19, although a moderate improvement was detectable at 12 weeks.

covid 19 cough

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The study found that 12 weeks after hospitalisation with COVID-19, 15% of patients still had a cough

Many patients who contract COVID-19 have detectable lung dysfunction 12 weeks after hospital discharge, preliminary results presented at the 2020 European Respiratory Society International Congress have suggested (7 September 2020)[1]

Researchers from Austria followed up 86 patients who had been hospitalised with COVID-19 for an average of 13 days, and tracked their symptoms and respiratory function at 6 and 12 weeks post-discharge.

After six weeks, 47% of patients were still experiencing dyspnoea and 15% still had a cough. At 12 weeks, these symptoms persisted in 39% and 15% of patients, respectively.

Some patients had persistent lung impairment at six weeks: 23% had a forced expiratory volume in 1 second value that was lower than 80% of normal, and 28% had a forced vital capacity value that was lower than 80% of normal.

At 12 weeks, these figures had decreased to 21% and 19%, respectively. There were also pathological CT scan findings in 88% of patients at week 6 and in 56% at week 12.

The researchers said that although the results demonstrated persistent pulmonary impairment weeks after recovery, a moderate improvement was detectable at 12 weeks.

“The findings from this study show the importance of implementing structured follow-up care for patients with severe COVID-19 infection,” said Sabina Sahanic, a PhD student in the haematological department at the University Clinic of Internal Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria, and lead author of the study.


[1] Sahanic S, Sonnweber T, Pizzini A, et al. Persistent pulmonary impairment following severe SARS-CoV-2 infection, preliminary results from the CovILD study. Presented at: European Respiratory Society International Congress 2020; 7–9 September 2020.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ October 2020, Vol 305, No 7942;305(7942):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208438

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