New research improves our understanding of the long-term implications of COVID-19

Findings by researchers from the Office for National Statistics, University College London (UCL) and University of Leicester show that people discharged from hospital after COVID-19 appear to have increased rates of organ damage ("multiorgan dysfunction") compared with similar individuals in the general population.

The research, published today in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), 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."

The full study is available on the BMJ website.

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