University of Virginia medical team sees success in COVID-19 “long-hauler” clinic

COVID Long Haulers
COVID Long Haulers
Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 7:28 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A medical team at the University of Virginia is making big strides in post-COVID-19 treatment, which helps many patients dealing with long-term symptom recovery.

A few ICU doctors at UVA started a clinic last June as one of the nation’s first post-COVID-19 treatment centers. They have seen over 130 patients to date. They were inspired to spring into action after seeing several “long hauler” patients struggling to get back to 100% health.

“Even with the most severe cases that we have seen in the hospital, it’s quite surprising how their pulmonary function becomes near normal if you just give them time,” Dr. Alexandra Kadl said.

Dr. Kadl works in the COVID-19 ICU at UVA Medical Center as well as the post-Covid clinic. She says pulmonary recovery goes two ways for most patients.

“On the flip side, there are some people who had not too significant pulmonary involvement in the beginning who still have respiratory symptoms,” she said. “It seems like that there are two ways how patients can recover from the acute illness.”

Dr. Chintan Ramani says the clinic was originally meant for patients discharged from the ICU, but they expanded it to anyone experiencing long-term effects.

”Ongoing fatigue and ongoing shortness of breath with some activity limitation and not getting back to baseline are some of the most common symptoms they presented when they came to us,” Dr. Ramani said.

Dr. Ramani and Dr. Kadl also started seeing other symptoms pop up, such as insomnia and depression.

“It seems like that at six months, there’s a little bit more pronounced neurocognitive impairments, especially depression, insomnia impairments that we’ll see,” Dr. Kadl said.

The average patient age at the clinic is 52, but it has treated people of all ages. “Age group is anywhere from actually 30s to even 80s, so we’re seeing a wide range variety of patients,” Dr. Ramani said.

Kadl says turnout has been astounding. Around 80% of patients still come in to the clinic. “We have very, very few cancellations and very, very few no shows,” she said.

Both Kadl and Ramani are pleased to share that around 70% to 80% of patients have been able to bounce back and make a full recovery, in time.

“Looking at the trajectory from six weeks to three months to six months, they’re actually going in the right direction,” Dr. Ramani said.

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