The study was published in the BMJ today.
The increased risk was not limited to the elderly and was not uniform across ethnic groups, prompting researchers to suggest that the long-term burden of Covid-19-related illnesses on hospitals and health systems at large is likely to be substantial.
Although Covid-19 is best known to cause serious breathing problems, it can affect other organs and systems in the body, including the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Several unexplained symptoms that persist for more than 12 weeks after Covid-19 are believed to be part of a post-Covid syndrome (also known as “long Covid”), but the long-term pattern of organ damage after infection is still not clear.
To investigate this, a team of UK researchers from the Office for National Statistics, University College London and the University of Leicester set out to compare rates of organ dysfunction in people with covid-19. several months after discharge from hospital with a matched control group from the general population.
Their findings are based on 47,780 people (average age 65, 55% male) in a hospital in England with Covid-19 who were released alive on August 31, 2020.
Participants were matched to controls, based on their personal characteristics and medical history. The medical records were then used to track hospital readmission rates (or any admissions for witnesses), all-cause deaths, and diagnoses of respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, kidney and liver disease through September 30. 2020.
Over an average follow-up of 140 days, nearly a third of people discharged from hospital after an acute phase of covid-19 were readmitted (14,060 out of 47,780) and more than 1 in 10 (5,875) died after their release.
These events occurred at rates of 766 readmissions and 320 deaths per 1,000 person-years, which were four and eight times higher, respectively, than those of the matched controls.
The rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes also increased significantly in patients with covid-19, with 539, 66, and 29 new diagnoses per 1,000 person-years, respectively (equivalent to 27, three, and 1 , 5 times more than in matched controls).
Differences in the rate of multivisceral dysfunction between patients with covid-19 and matched controls were greater in those younger than 70 years than in those aged 70 or older, and in ethnic minority groups compared to the white population, the most important differences being observed for respiratory diseases. .
Differences in disease rates between males and females were generally small.
This was a large, well-designed study using 10 years of historical clinical records to exactly match individuals with covid-19 to controls. However, the results are observational and the authors cannot rule out the possibility that rates of diagnoses, in general, may have declined indirectly due to the pandemic, particularly in people out of hospital with covid-19.
“Our results suggest that the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of post-covid syndrome require integrated approaches rather than organ or disease specific,” they write.
And they say urgent research is needed “to understand the risk factors for post-covid syndrome so that treatment can better target populations at risk demographically and clinically.”