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BACKGROUND: Lingering symptoms after acute COVID-19 present a major challenge to ambulatory care services. Since there are reservations regarding their optimal management, we aimed to collate all available evidence on the effects of rehabilitation treatments applicable in ambulatory care for these patients. METHODS: On 9 May 2022, we systematically searched articles in COVID-19 collections, Embase, MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, CINAHL, PsycArticles, PEDro, and EuropePMC. References were eligible if they reported on the clinical effectiveness of a rehabilitation therapy applicable in ambulatory care for adult patients with persisting symptoms continuing 4 weeks after the onset of COVID-19. The quality of the studies was evaluated using the CASP cohort study checklist and the Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Tool. Summary of Findings tables were constructed and the certainty of evidence was assessed using the GRADE framework. RESULTS: We included 38 studies comprising 2,790 participants. Physical training and breathing exercises may reduce fatigue, dyspnoea, and chest pain and may improve physical capacity and quality of life, but the evidence is very weak (based on 6 RCTs and 12 cohort studies). The evidence underpinning the effect of nutritional supplements on fatigue, dyspnoea, muscle pain, sensory function, psychological well-being, quality of life, and functional capacity is very poor (based on 4 RCTs). Also, the evidence-base is very weak about the effect of olfactory training on sensory function and quality of life (based on 4 RCTs and 3 cohort studies). Multidisciplinary treatment may have beneficial effects on fatigue, dyspnoea, physical capacity, pulmonary function, quality of life, return to daily life activities, and functional capacity, but the evidence is very weak (based on 5 cohort studies). The certainty of evidence is very low due to study limitations, inconsistency, indirectness, and imprecision. CONCLUSIONS: Physical training, breathing exercises, olfactory training and multidisciplinary treatment can be effective rehabilitation therapies for patients with persisting symptoms after COVID-19, still with high uncertainty regarding these effects. These findings can guide ambulatory care practitioners to treat these patients and should be incorporated in clinical practice guidelines. High-quality studies are needed to confirm our hypotheses and should report on adverse events.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Infect Dis

Publication Date





Ambulatory care, COVID-19, Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, Rehabilitation, Adult, Humans, COVID-19, Quality of Life, Cohort Studies, Treatment Outcome, Fatigue, Dyspnea, Ambulatory Care