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Study: 10% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients return for care after discharge

More than 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients return to the hospital within 30 days for additional treatment, according to new research. File Photo by Enric Fontcuberta/EPA-EFE
More than 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients return to the hospital within 30 days for additional treatment, according to new research. File Photo by Enric Fontcuberta/EPA-EFE

May 21 (UPI) -- More than 1 in 10 patients discharged from the hospital following treatment for COVID-19 return within 30 days due to lingering or recurring symptoms of infection, a study published Friday by GeroScience found.

Nearly 25% needed hospital-level care within four months of initial discharge, the data showed.

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More than 40% of patients who required hospital care a second time after coronavirus infection had a history of neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, stroke, dementia, migraines, spinal stenosis and peripheral neuropathy before their COVID-19 diagnosis, the researchers said.

"We were surprised to find that a history of neurologic disorders was the only [previous health condition] that predicted an increased risk for recurrent medical complications that required hospital-level care," study co-author Dr. Eric Liotta said in a press release.

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"Neither age, need for mechanical ventilation during COVID-19, nor length of the COVID-19 hospitalization, predicted having a hospital reencounter," said Liotta, neuro-critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

More than 33.1 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and nearly 590,000 have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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However, about 14% of those who have recovered from the virus continue to have persistent symptoms up to nine months later, a study published by JAMA Network Open in February found.

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Even those who initially experience mild illness after infection, particularly older adults and those with chronic health conditions, have ongoing care needs for months, based on data released in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For this study, Liotta and his colleagues analyzed data on 509 COVID-19 patients first hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial between March 5 and April 6, 2020.

Of these patients, 466, or about 92%, were considered recovered and discharged home, the researchers said.

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Just over 12% of these patients needed hospital-level care within 30 days of discharge and about 22% needed hospital-level care within four months.

Recurrence of COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, fever and respiratory distress was the leading reason for additional hospital-level care.

Older patients and those with diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, or a history of organ transplants had more frequent hospital "reencounters."

Patients with a history of neurologic disorders before COVID-19 had a higher risk of returning to the hospital following discharge compared to those without these conditions.

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However, steroid treatment during initial hospitalization may reduce COVID-19 symptom recurrence that necessitates a return for hospital-level care, the researchers said.

"Needing to return to the hospital after having been hospitalized for COVID-19 is common," study co-author Dr. Ayush Batra said in a press release.

"Our future work will seek to identify the full range of symptoms experienced by patients following hospitalization for COVID-19, the duration of those symptoms and their impact on function and quality of life," said Batra, also a neuro-critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial.

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Homeless and migrant laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown queue up to receive free cooked food distributed by Sikh volunteers in New Delhi, India, on May 18, 2021. Photo by Abhishek/UPI | License Photo

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