As many as one in every two people hospitalised with severe COVID-19 go on to develop other health complications, according to comprehensive new research released on Friday.
Authors of the study said their findings showed a “profound” short- and long-term health impact on COVID-19 patients as well as on health and care services.
Data from more than 70,000 hospital patients across more than 300 British hospitals was collected for the research.
It found that the most common health complications were problems with patients’ kidneys and lungs, but neurological and cardiovascular conditions were also widely reported.
The rate of complications was high even among “young, previously healthy” patients, with 27 percent of 19-29 year olds and 37 percent of 30-39 year olds experiencing at least one complication after being hospitalised with COVID-19.
Authors of the research, published in The Lancet medical journal, said it should alert policymakers to the need to plan for long-term support for COVID survivors.
“This work contradicts current narratives that COVID-19 is only dangerous in people with existing co-morbidities and the elderly,” said senior author Professor Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool.
“Disease severity at admission is a predictor of complications even in younger adults, so prevention of complications requires a primary prevention strategy, meaning vaccination.”
The data showed that complications were more common in men than women and slightly higher in black patients than white patients.
Significantly, nearly one in three — 27 percent — of patients were found to be less able to care for themselves after being discharged from hospital, irrespective of age, gender or race.
The authors said that the complications recorded in the research were separate from so-called “long COVID”, where sufferers manifest symptoms directly linked to the disease for weeks and often months after infection.
They called for longer-term monitoring of the health impacts on COVID patients and said governments should be prepared to organise specialised follow up care for survivors.
“It is important that with the high risk of complications and the impact these have on people, that complications of COVID-19 — not just death — are considered when making decisions on how best to tackle the pandemic,” said co-author Aya Riad, from the University of Edinburgh.
“Just focussing on death from COVID-19 is likely to underestimate the true impact, particularly in younger people who are more likely to survive severe COVID-19.”