Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19: Half of hospitalised patients in UK developed complications, says Lancet

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on July 16, 2021
People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform at King's Cross Station in London.


These complications are different to what is called 'long Covid' symptoms in patients who were not hospitalised.

An observational study of more than 70,000 people in 302 UK hospitals has found that one in two people hospitalised with Covid-19 develop at least one complication, the most common including renal, complex respiratory, and systemic complications, medical journal 'The Lancet' reported on Thursday.

Other complications observed were cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal and liver-related, the study, described as the most comprehensive of its kind, added.

Of the over 70,000 adults studied, half (36,367 of 73,197) developed one or more health complications during hospitalisation, with high rates across all age groups.

The authors say the complications are likely to have important short- and long-term impacts for patients, healthcare utilisation, healthcare system preparedness, and society amidst the ongoing pandemic. They also note that these complications are different to what is called 'long Covid' symptoms in patients who were not hospitalised.

The authors say that complications in Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital are high, even in young, previously healthy individuals – with 27 per cent of 19-29 year olds and 37 per cent of 30-39 year olds experiencing a complication.

They also note that acute complications are associated with reduced ability to self-care at discharge – with 13 per cent of 19-29 year olds and 17 per cent of 30-39 year olds unable to look after themselves once discharged from hospital.

The study looked at cases between January 17 and August 4, 2020, before vaccines were widely available, and new variants of the virus had not arisen. However, the authors note that their findings remain relevant in dispelling suggestions that the virus presents no risk to younger healthy adults, many of whom remain unvaccinated.

Chief investigator and joint senior author of the study, Calum Semple of the University of Liverpool, says: "This work contradicts current narratives that Covid-19 is only dangerous in people with existing co-morbidities and the elderly. Dispelling and contributing to the scientific debate around such narratives has become increasingly important".

"Disease severity at admission is a predictor of complications even in younger adults, so prevention of complications requires a primary prevention strategy, meaning vaccination," he added.

Men and those aged older than 60 years were most likely affected, but complications and poor functional outcomes were common, even in younger, previously healthy adults. People of white, South Asian, and East Asian ethnicities had similar rates of complications.

Thomas Drake, co-author from the University of Edinburgh, adds: "Our research looked at a wide range of complications, and found that short-term damage to several organs is extremely common in those treated in hospital for Covid-19…Our study shows it is important to consider not just death from Covid-19, but other complications as well."

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