Initially, researchers considered COVID-19 as a respiratory condition, but as the pandemic continues and more studies are performed they have been slowly building a clearer picture of the true impacts of the disease.
Post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection has been defined as signs and symptoms that persist beyond 30 days after infection. New data suggest that individuals affected by the disease might have many signs and symptoms across a wide range of organ systems after the acute infection.
In a recently published study, researchers wanted to understand the likelihood of older adults developing health conditions following SARS-CoV-2 infection, most commonly referred to as sequelae The study was published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers used two data sources within the UnitedHealth Group Clinical Research Database. All data were individuals who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan with coverage of prescription drugs through one large national health insurance provider in the US.
The participants were aged ≥65 years with a diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The participants were divided into 3 groups, 2020 comparison group (n=87 337), historical 2019 comparison group (n=88 070), and historical comparison group with viral lower respiratory tract illness (n=73 490).
The researchers found that among individuals who were diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, 32% sought medical attention in the post-acute period for one or more new or persistent clinical sequelae.
The conditions with the greatest risk differences compared with the 2020 comparison group and 2019 comparison group were: respiratory failure, hypertension, memory difficulties, kidney injury, mental health diagnoses, hypercoagulability, and cardiac rhythm disorders.
Results from the study confirmed an excess risk for persistent and new sequelae in adults 65 years or older after acute infection with SARS-CoV-2. The research team found that around one-third of older adults developed new conditions, compared with one-fifth of older adults who did not have COVID-19.
Ken Cohen, et al. Risk of persistent and new clinical sequelae among adults aged 65 years and older during the post-acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection: retrospective cohort study BMJ 2022;376:e068414. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2021-068414