Southmead Hospital publishes pioneering research on long term effects of coronavirus

  •  Three quarters of patients reported ongoing symptoms three months after discharge.
  • Many still experiencing poor quality of life.

Three quarters of a group of patients who received care for coronavirus at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital were still suffering ongoing symptoms three months later, a study has found.
Researchers at North Bristol NHS Trust found that 81 out of 110 discharged patients were still experiencing symptoms such as breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches when invited back to clinic.

Many were also suffering from poor quality of life compared to the rest of the population, struggling to carry out daily tasks such as washing, dressing or going back to work.
Most of the patients did, however, report improvements in their initial symptoms of fever, cough and loss of sense of smell. Reassuringly, the majority of patients had no evidence of lung scarring or reductions in lung function.

The findings came as part of the preliminary results of the DISCOVER project, the first of its kind, into the longer-term effects of coronavirus.

Deputy Director of research and innovation at North Bristol NHS Trust Dr Rebecca Smith said:

“There’s still so much we don’t know about the long term effects of coronavirus, but this study has given us vital new insight into what challenges patients may face in their recovery and will help us prepare for those needs.

“We’re pleased that researchers at Southmead Hospital are leading the way, and hope our findings can help patients and their GPs understand the course of post-COVID illness and the role of routine tests.”

The research is due to continue at Southmead Hospital, with researchers collaborating with the University of Bristol to look at the participant blood tests, rehabilitation therapies and psychological support.

Dr David Arnold from North Bristol NHS Trust, who is leading the DISCOVER research project, said: 

"This research helps to describe what many coronavirus patients have been telling us: they are still breathless, tired, and not sleeping well months after admission. Reassuringly, however, abnormalities on X-rays and breathing tests are rare in this group. Further work in the DISCOVER project will help us to understand why this is, and how we can help coronavirus sufferers."

The research was funded by Southmead Hospital Charity thanks to donations from their supporters. The charity’s Coronavirus Appeal is ongoing to continue to support more COVID-19 research at the Trust including the next stages of the DISCOVER project.  

Director of Southmead Hospital Charity, Sarah Harrison, said: 

“We are proud to have been able to support this vital research project which has already enabled clinicians to develop their understanding of this disease and its longer term effects.

“This research firmly puts Bristol at the heart of advancing the knowledge of coronavirus and how it shapes the medical landscape going forward.

“These latest findings from the DISCOVER team show that more work is needed to support patients and the NHS longer term and it is donations from the public and our supporters that will enable us to continue to support that important work.”