SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia follow-up and long COVID in primary care: A retrospective observational study in Madrid city

Background:

Patients with COVID-19 are follow-up in primary care and long COVID is scarcely defined. The study aim was to describe SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia and cut-offs for defining long COVID in primary care follow-up patients.

Methods:

A retrospective observational study in primary care in Madrid, Spain, was conducted. Data was collected during 6 months (April to September) in 2020, during COVID-19 first wave, from patients ≥ 18 years with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia diagnosed. Variables: sociodemographic, comorbidities, COVID-19 symptoms and complications, laboratory test and chest X-ray. Descriptive statistics were used, mean (standard deviation (SD)) and medians (interquartile range (IQR)) respectively. Differences were detected applying X2 test, Student’s T-test, ANOVA, Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney or Kruskal-Wallis depending on variable characteristics.

Results:

155 patients presented pneumonia in day 7.8 from the onset (79.4% were hospitalized, median length of 7.0 days (IQR: 3.0, 13.0)). After discharge, the follow-up lasted 54.0 median days (IQR 42.0, 88.0) and 12.2 mean (SD 6.4) phone calls were registered per patient. The main symptoms and their duration were: cough (41.9%, 12 days), dyspnoea (31.0%, 15 days), asthenia (26.5%, 21 days). Different cut-off points were applied for long COVID and week 4 was considered the best milestone (28.3% of the sample still had symptoms after week 4) versus week 12 (8.3%). Patients who still had symptoms >4 weeks follow-up took place over 81.0 days (IQR: 50.5, 103.0), their symptoms were more prevalent and lasted longer than those ≤ 4 weeks: cough (63.6% 30 days), dyspnoea (54.6%, 46 days), and asthenia (56.8%, 29 days). Embolism was more frequent in patients who still had symptoms >4 weeks than those with symptoms ≤4 weeks (9.1% vs 1.8%, p value 0.034).

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Conclusion:

Most patients with SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia recovered during the first 4 weeks from the beginning of the infection. The cut-off point to define long COVID, as persisting symptoms, should be between 4 to 12 weeks from the onset of the symptoms.

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