The leading reason for COVID-19 patients to be hospitalized again within 30 days of discharge is returning coronavirus symptoms, a study from Northwestern Medicine found.
Patients returning to the hospital were experiencing recurring symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, fatigue and respiratory distress, according to the study.
The study also found that patients with a history of neurological disorders before COVID were more likely to return to the hospital for additional treatment, otherwise known as a "COVID Reencounter."
“We were surprised to find that a history of neurologic disorders was the only comorbidity that predicted an increased risk for recurrent medical complications that required hospital-level care, both at 30 days and four months,” Dr. Eric Liotta, neurocritical care specialist at Northwestern Medicine.
The study noted, however, that steroid treatment during the initial hospitalization could reduce the risk for COVID symptom recurrence leading to emergency care.
“Neither age, need for mechanical ventilation during COVID-19, nor length of the COVID-19 hospitalization predicted having a hospital reencounter. This finding highlights the unique role of the nervous system in COVID-19 and COVID-19 recovery, a role which has been suggested by other major research groups," Liotta, who co-authored the study, said.
According to Northwestern, of the 509 patients, 40% reported having a history of neurological disorders such as epilepsy, stroke, dementia, migraines, spinal stenosis and peripheral neuropathy.
Though typically associated with respiratory infection, Liotta noted that the coronavirus impacts the entire body, as found in this study.
“COVID-19 is not just a disease of the pulmonary system - it affects all parts of the body - and we are also learning COVID-19 doesn’t end at the hospital doors - when a patient is discharged they do have issues that they’re going to be dealing with afterward.”
Aside from the recurrence of symptoms, patients also returned for the following leading reasons: Bacterial pneumonia, other pulmonary complications, infections besides pneumonia, bleeding.
According to Northwestern, patients with more frequent reencounters were typically older, had diabetes, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or underwent organ transplant.
Liotta added that the the study was done prior to the COVID vaccine being available to the public.