Long COVID-19 has negative impacts for at least a year

Oct. 27, 2021

Patients with post-acute COVID syndrome (PACS), also known as long-COVID, may have symptoms for at least 12 months after an initial COVID-19 infection, significantly and negatively impacting their cognition, ability to work, participate in physical activity, interact with others, and overall quality of life, according to a new Mount Sinai study. 

The study, published in the American Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, measures the actual impairment and impact of PACS on patients, and detail factors that may exacerbate their symptoms.

A team of researchers did a retrospective, observational study of 156 patients treated at Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care between March 2020 and March 2021. The patients had previously had COVID-19 and had not yet been vaccinated at the time of the study. Patients filled out surveys on persistent symptoms and triggers of symptom exacerbation a median of 351 days from their first day of infection. Patients received surveys after scheduling their first appointment and their responses were timestamped once submitted. They were asked detailed questions about fatigue, breathlessness, ability to complete moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity, cognitive function, health-related quality of life, anxiety, depression, disability, and their pre- and post-COVID-19 employment status.

The most common reported symptoms were fatigue (82% of patients), followed by brain fog (67%), headache (60%), sleep disturbance (59%), and dizziness (54%). Researchers performed a more detailed evaluation of the severity of self-reported cognitive impairment and discovered that more than 60% of PACS patients had some level of cognitive impairment (either mild, moderate or severe), with symptoms including diminished short-term memory, difficulty remembering names, and issues with decision-making and daily planning.    

Going further, the study noted factors that the patients said made their PACS symptoms worse. The biggest trigger was physical exertion (reported by 86% of patients), followed by stress (69%), dehydration (49%), and weather changes (37%). 

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