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Pulmonary function and exercise capacity six months after hospital discharge of patients with severe COVID-19.

INTRODUCTION: The long-term consequences of COVID-19, especially pulmonary impairment, are frequent but not well understood. The knowledge about sequels or long COVID-19 are necessary, considering the high prevalence and need for specific public strategies.

METHOD: The study was conducted to evaluate symptoms (standardized questionnaire), pulmonary function (spirometry), and exercise capacity (6-minute-walk-test) at 30 (D30), 90 (D90), and 180 (D180) days after hospital discharge of patients surviving to severe COVID-19. We excluded in this follow up patients with comorbidities before COVID infection.

RESULTS: 44 patients were included and 31 (26 men) completed the 6-month follow-up (age mean 53.6 ± 9.6 years). At D180, 28% presented still at least one symptom. The most common was dyspnea (17.2%), followed by cough (13.8%), and myalgia (10.3%). All spirometric parameters showed progressive improvement from D30 to D180. However, 16% maintained a restrictive pattern on spirometry test, 44% presented desaturation on the 6-minute walk-test, and 25% walked < 75% of the predicted value.

CONCLUSION: 6-months after hospital discharge, reduced pulmonary function and reduced exercise capacity was founded frequently and more than a quarter remained symptomatic. The persistent symptoms and functional impairment suggest that sequels and development of Long COVID-19 are very common. The identification of these patients to provide the necessary health care is a challenging task, considering the large number of patients infected and surviving to COVID-19 disease.

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