A new peer-reviewed study published in the British Medical Journal examined the risk of delayed medical conditions caused by COVID-19 infection and found that nearly one in every three adults aged 65 or older who became infected during 2020 developed at least one new condition during the months following diagnosis.
Numerous patients claimed issues involving key organs such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver that required medical attention; additional people reported mental health complications. Conditions that develop as a result of a previous illness are referred to as sequelae.
The study examined administrative claims and outpatient lab findings for COVID-19 infection using data from the UnitedHealth Group Clinical Research Database. The analysis included data on 133,366 participants aged 65 or older who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Prior to April 1, 2020, all patients had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
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Any new problems that developed within 21 days of the COVID-19 diagnosis were documented in order to assess the excess risk when compared to data from three different groups with patients who did not have COVID-19. Three categories were created: one for patient records from 2019, one for patient records from 2020, and another for patient records from patients diagnosed with a viral lower respiratory tract disease (LRTI).
The results indicated that 32 of every 100 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020 developed at least one new disease that necessitated medical attention, an increase of 11% over the same year in the non-COVID-19 group. Patients sought treatment for the following conditions: respiratory failure occurred in an additional 7.55 patients out of every 100, tiredness occurred in an additional 5.66, hypertension occurred in 4.34, and kidney injury occurred in 2.59. A further 2.5 individuals in every 100 needed care for mental health issues.
While the results when compared to the group from 2019 were similar, the results compared to the group diagnosed with LRTI differed in that an additional 2.39 patients per 100 from the COVID-19 group were seen for respiratory failure, 0.71 were seen for dementia, and 0.18 were seen for fatigue. No other conditions showed increased risk differences.
“The findings confirm an increased risk of persistent and novel sequelae in individuals aged 65 years following acute infection with SARS-CoV-2,” the study stated, and emphasize the breadth of significant sequelae.
The findings may benefit physicians and other researchers as the number of recovered COVID-19 patients developing new and persistent diseases continues to rise. “Understanding the level of risk associated with the most serious clinical sequelae may aid in the diagnosis and management of patients who develop sequelae following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection.” “As stated in the paper.
“Additionally, our findings can assist physicians and other important stakeholders in anticipating the magnitude of future health issues and optimizing resource utilization planning.”