Patient wearing a face mask, lying in hospital bed

COVID-19 PHOSP-COVID Study

As COVID-19 is a new disease, the PHOSP-COVID study aims to identify whether there are longer-term health problems of COVID-19 for those who were admitted to hospital.

The study aims to understand:

  • Why some people experience more severe COVID-19 than others
  • Why some people recover more quickly than others
  • Why some patients develop other health problems later on
  • Which treatments or interventions patients received in hospital or afterwards were helpful
  • How we can improve the care of patients after they have been discharged from hospital

Patients on the study will be assessed using techniques such as advanced imaging, data collection and analysis of blood and lung samples, creating a comprehensive picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on longer term health outcomes across the UK.

The PHOSP-COVID team will then develop trials of new strategies for clinical care, including personalised treatments for groups of patients based on the particular disease characteristics they show as a result of having COVID-19 to improve their long-term health.

Results
 

Study reveals seven in ten patients hospitalised with COVID-19 not fully recovered five months post-discharge

Key study findings:

  • Majority of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 have not fully recovered after 5 months
  • Those who experience more persistent symptoms tend to be middle-aged, white, female, with at least two ‘co-morbidities’, such as diabetes, lung or heart disease
  • Cognitive impairment, also referred to as ‘brain fog’, occurs as a predominant symptom in a sub-set of patients who tend to be older and male
  • A biological marker associated with inflammation, C-Reactive Protein (CRP), is elevated in all but the most mild of post-hospital cases

The majority of survivors who left hospital following COVID-19 did not fully recover five months after discharge and continued to experience negative impacts on their physical and mental health, as well as ability to work, according to results released by the PHOSP-COVID study today. Furthermore, one in five of the participant population reached the threshold for a new disability.

The UK-wide study, which is led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University - and jointly funded by the NIHR and UK Research and Innovation, analysed 1077 patients who were discharged from hospital between March and November 2020 following an episode of COVID-19.

Researchers found that each participant had an average of nine persistent symptoms. The ten most common symptoms reported were: muscle pain, fatigue, physical slowing down, impaired sleep quality, joint pain or swelling, limb weakness, breathlessness, pain, short-term memory loss, and slowed thinking.

Patients were also assessed for mental health. The study reports that over 25 per cent of participants had clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression and 12 per cent had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at their 5-month follow-up.

Of the 67.5 per cent of participants who were working before COVID, 17.8 per cent were no longer working, and nearly 20 per cent experienced a health-related change in their occupational status.

Professor Chris Brightling, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Leicester and the chief investigator for the PHOSP-COVID study, said:

“While the profile of patients being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is disproportionately male and from an ethnic minority background, our study finds that those who have the most severe prolonged symptoms tend to be white women aged approximately 40 to 60 who have at least two long term health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.”

The researchers were able to the classify types of recovery into four different groups or ‘clusters’ based on the participants’ mental and physical health impairments.

One cluster group in particular showed impaired cognitive function, or what has colloquially been called ‘brain fog’. Patients in this group tended to be older and male. Cognitive impairment was striking even when taking education levels into account, suggesting a different underlying mechanism compared to other symptoms.

Dr Rachael Evans, an associate professor at the University of Leicester and respiratory consultant at Leicester’s Hospitals, said:

“Our results show a large burden of symptoms, mental and physical health problems and evidence of organ damage five months after discharge with COVID-19. It is also clear that those who required mechanical ventilation and were admitted to intensive care take longer to recover. However, much of the wide variety of persistent problems was not explained by the severity of the acute illness - the latter largely driven by acute lung injury - indicating other, possibly more systemic, underlying mechanisms"

The pre-print, title, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is now available to view on Med Archives.

Thank you to all of our research teams who are making such a different to people’s lives, and also to Southmead Hospital Charity which is raising much-needed funds for COVID-19 research.

Contact Research & Innovation

Research & Innovation
North Bristol NHS Trust
Floor 3, Learning & Research Centre
Southmead Hospital
Westbury-on-Trym
Bristol, BS10 5NB

Telephone: 0117 4149330
Email: research@nbt.nhs.uk