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NIHR highlights COVID-19 study supported by ARC East Midlands

A study supported by ARC East Midlands revealing increased rates of organ damage are seen in people discharged from hospital after COVID-19 has been featured as an Alert on the NIHR website.

The findings of the paper ‘Post-covid syndrome in individuals admitted to hospital with covid-19: retrospective cohort study’ are now being promoted across the research community.

According to the results, people discharged from hospital after being treated for COVID-19 have increased rates of organ damage, readmission and death, compared to the general population. The Alert says this new research suggests that COVID-19 might place a greater burden on healthcare systems than was previously thought.

While COVID-19 is known to affect the respiratory system, increasing evidence suggests it also affects other organs, such as the kidneys, liver and heart. But before this study, it was unclear how many people experience organ damage. 

This study looked at the extra long-term burden on healthcare systems caused by COVID-19. Researchers analysed data on almost 50,000 people who had been treated for COVID-19 in hospital. Their health was compared to people in the general population of the same age and with similar medical history.

More than one in 10 people treated in hospital for COVID-19 died within 140 days after they were discharged, while nearly one in three were readmitted, the study found. They were more likely to develop respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes than people in the general population.

More research is needed to understand which groups of people are most likely to develop these complications, the researchers say. 

They suggest that an integrated care is needed to diagnose, treat and prevent organ damage after COVID-19. This approach means that the same medical team provides care at all stages of a patient's illness, in hospital and in the community.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is the Director of ARC East Midlands and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: "The evidence gained from research is vital in the battle against COVID-19. This study has equipped us with the knowledge that people discharged from hospital after COVID-19 generally have higher rates of organ damage than similar individuals in the general population. So, we now know that the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of long COVID therefore needs to be more holistic, it should not focus on a specific organ or symptom."

Lead author Daniel Ayoubkhani, a Principal Statistician at Office for National Statistics, said: "This was one of the largest studies to date to examine the downstream consequences of severe COVID-19. It was made possible by linking anonymised medical records in a safe and secure NHS research environment. The rates of post-hospitalisation organ damage – not just in the lungs but across the body – are stark, and the increase in risk was not confined to older people. The findings add to our understanding of the long-term implications of the pandemic for patients, health services and society more broadly."

➡️ Link to NIHR Alert

➡️ Link to paper

Published on: 1 Dec 2021