Background: The impact of COVID-19 on physical and mental health and employment after hospitalisation with acute disease is not well understood. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of COVID-19-related hospitalisation on health and employment, to identify factors associated with recovery, and to describe recovery phenotypes.
Methods: The Post-hospitalisation COVID-19 study (PHOSP-COVID) is a multicentre, long-term follow-up study of adults (aged ≥18 years) discharged from hospital in the UK with a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19, involving an assessment between 2 and 7 months after discharge, including detailed recording of symptoms, and physiological and biochemical testing. Multivariable logistic regression was done for the primary outcome of patient-perceived recovery, with age, sex, ethnicity, body-mass index, comorbidities, and severity of acute illness as covariates. A post-hoc cluster analysis of outcomes for breathlessness, fatigue, mental health, cognitive impairment, and physical performance was done using the clustering large applications k-medoids approach. The study is registered on the ISRCTN Registry (ISRCTN10980107).
Findings: We report findings for 1077 patients discharged from hospital between March 5 and Nov 30, 2020, who underwent assessment at a median of 5·9 months (IQR 4·9–6·5) after discharge. Participants had a mean age of 58 years (SD 13); 384 (36%) were female, 710 (69%) were of white ethnicity, 288 (27%) had received mechanical ventilation, and 540 (50%) had at least two comorbidities. At follow-up, only 239 (29%) of 830 participants felt fully recovered, 158 (20%) of 806 had a new disability (assessed by the Washington Group Short Set on Functioning), and 124 (19%) of 641 experienced a health-related change in occupation. Factors associated with not recovering were female sex, middle age (40–59 years), two or more comorbidities, and more severe acute illness. The magnitude of the persistent health burden was substantial but only weakly associated with the severity of acute illness. Four clusters were identified with different severities of mental and physical health impairment (n=767): very severe (131 patients, 17%), severe (159, 21%), moderate along with cognitive impairment (127, 17%), and mild (350, 46%). Of the outcomes used in the cluster analysis, all were closely related except for cognitive impairment. Three (3%) of 113 patients in the very severe cluster, nine (7%) of 129 in the severe cluster, 36 (36%) of 99 in the moderate cluster, and 114 (43%) of 267 in the mild cluster reported feeling fully recovered. Persistently elevated serum C-reactive protein was positively associated with cluster severity.
Interpretation: We identified factors related to not recovering after hospital admission with COVID-19 at 6 months after discharge (eg, female sex, middle age, two or more comorbidities, and more acute severe illness), and four different recovery phenotypes. The severity of physical and mental health impairments were closely related, whereas cognitive health impairments were independent. In clinical care, a proactive approach is needed across the acute severity spectrum, with interdisciplinary working, wide access to COVID-19 holistic clinical services, and the potential to stratify care.