Initial symptoms and three months follow-up after acute COVID-19 in outpatients: An international prospective cohort study.
Hedin K., van der Velden AW., Hansen MP., Moberg AB., Balan A., Bruno P., Coenen S., Johansen E., Kowalczyk A., Kurotschka PK., van der Linde SR., Malania L., Rohde J., Verbakel J., Vornhagen H., Vellinga A.
BACKGROUND: Most studies on long-term follow-up of patients with COVID-19 focused on hospitalised patients. No prospective study with structured follow-up has been performed in non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19. OBJECTIVES: To assess long-COVID and post-COVID (WHO definition: symptomatic at least 12 weeks), describe lingering symptoms, their impact on daily activities, and general practice visits and explore risk factors for symptom duration in outpatients. METHODS: A prospective study of adult outpatients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in 11 European countries, recruited during 2020 and 2021 from primary care and the community. Structured follow-up by phone interviews (symptom rating, symptom impact on daily activities and general practice visits) was performed at weeks 2, 4, 8, and 12 by study personnel. Data was analysed descriptively by using correlation matrixes and Cox regression. RESULTS: Of 270 enrolled patients, 52% developed long-COVID and 32% post-COVID-syndrome. When only considering the presence of moderate or (very) severe symptoms at weeks 8 and 12, these percentages were 28% and 18%, respectively. Fatigue was the most often reported symptom during follow-up. The impact of lingering symptoms was most evident in sports and household activities. About half (53%) had at least one general practice contact during follow-up. Obese patients took twice as long to return to usual health (HR: 0.5, 95%CI: 0.3-0.8); no other risk profile could predict lingering symptoms. CONCLUSION: Long-COVID and post-COVID are also common in outpatients. In 32%, it takes more than 12 weeks to return to usual health.