The long Covid is still a mystery that science seeks to understand. This is the name given to conditions in which, even after recovering from the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, the person has symptoms over weeks or months. Among the teams working to understand the condition are health professionals from Paraná.
In a new study, researchers at the Cajuru University Hospital in Curitiba, managed by the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), set out to collect data to investigate the evolution of prolonged Covid-19 episodes.
“We began to observe that the inflammatory process was different from other respiratory diseases”, reports physical therapist Cristina Baena, professor at the PUCPR School of Medicine and coordinator of the study, to GALILEU. According to her, the inflammation identified was greater than expected, and was not restricted to the lung alone.
Based on medical records of hospitalized patients with moderate or severe cases of Covid-19, the team conducted clinical analyzes to investigate the effects of the disease on organs such as the heart, kidney and liver. And a multidisciplinary group of specialists also followed people after they were discharged from the hospital.
The work was carried out in an outpatient clinic dedicated to post-covid care and research, the result of a partnership between PUCPR and the Municipal Health Department of Curitiba. The health center includes specialists from different areas, identified based on the needs of patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Psychologists, cardiologists, neurologists, physiotherapists, pulmonologists and general practitioners, for example, are part of the outpatient clinical staff.
A total of 112 individuals with some type of problem resulting from the disease were selected for this monitoring. Of these, the majority (68.8%) are under 60 years of age, and the rest are above that age. Results were based on the first consultation held, on average, one month after patients had left the hospital.
Differences in sequelae
The team concluded that younger and older adults are affected differently by prolonged Covid-19. About 86% of participants over 60 who recovered from severe conditions still reported shortness of breath one month after discharge. And more than 50% had pain and fatigue in the lower limbs.
As for the younger ones, what surprised the researchers were the sequelae linked to cognition. “It caught our attention that 70% of patients, in general, reported difficulty in reasoning in the first consultations”, recalls Baena. “But what alarmed me the most was seeing young people in their 30s showing cognitive performance equivalent to dementia patients.”
Fortunately, these conditions diminished considerably over time — within six months, most had already recovered in cognitive terms. Even so, the youngest were also the most affected by anxiety and depression after discharge. According to Cristina Baena, 20% were unable to return to work during this period.
The survey also found that, on average, those affected by long-term Covid have: weight loss (82.1%), shortness of breath (76.8%), fatigue (49.1%), pain (44.6%). ) and fatigue (49.1%) in the lower limbs, insomnia (41.1%), hypertension (41.1%) and cough (39.3%). These symptoms were more common especially in patients who needed to be intubated.
Now, the PUCPR team is working on a study to investigate symptoms that persist up to six months after infection. For the coordinator of the article, the work — which should be published in 2022 — contributes to solving questions that have not yet been answered.
“Doing research in the area of Covid was as if we had to make available to society the training of a lifetime, we tried to answer questions emerging from a pandemic during a chaotic moment”, says Cristina Baeda. “Overall, the feeling is that we have made a great contribution to society.”
*with editing by Luiza Monteiro