Symptom Persistence Despite Improvement in Cardiopulmonary Health - Insights from longitudinal CMR, CPET and lung function testing post-COVID-19.
Cassar MP., Tunnicliffe EM., Petousi N., Lewandowski AJ., Xie C., Mahmod M., Samat AHA., Evans RA., Brightling CE., Ho L-P., Piechnik SK., Talbot NP., Holdsworth D., Ferreira VM., Neubauer S., Raman B.
Background: The longitudinal trajectories of cardiopulmonary abnormalities and symptoms following infection with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are unclear. We sought to describe their natural history in previously hospitalised patients, compare this with controls, and assess the relationship between symptoms and cardiopulmonary impairment at 6 months post-COVID-19. Methods: Fifty-eight patients and thirty matched controls (single visit), recruited between 14th March - 25th May 2020, underwent symptom-questionnaires, cardiac and lung magnetic resonance imaging (CMR), cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET), and spirometry at 3 months following COVID-19. Of them, forty-six patients returned for follow-up assessments at 6 months. Findings: At 2-3 months, 83% of patients had at least one cardiopulmonary symptom versus 33% of controls. Patients and controls had comparable biventricular volumes and function. Native cardiac T1 (marker of fibroinflammation) and late gadolinium enhancement (LGE, marker of focal fibrosis) were increased in patients at 2-3 months. Sixty percent of patients had lung parenchymal abnormalities on CMR and 55% had reduced peak oxygen consumption (pV̇O2) on CPET. By 6 months, 52% of patients remained symptomatic. On CMR, indexed right ventricular (RV) end-diastolic volume (-4·3 mls/m2, P=0·005) decreased and RV ejection fraction (+3·2%, P=0·0003) increased. Native T1 and LGE improved and was comparable to controls. Lung parenchymal abnormalities and peak V̇O2, although better, were abnormal in patients versus controls. 31% had reduced pV̇O2 secondary to symptomatic limitation and muscular impairment. Cardiopulmonary symptoms in patients did not associate with CMR, lung function, or CPET measures. Interpretation: In patients, cardiopulmonary abnormalities improve over time, though some measures remain abnormal relative to controls. Persistent symptoms at 6 months post-COVID-19 did not associate with objective measures of cardiopulmonary health. Funding: The authors' work was supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence (RE/18/3/34214), United Kingdom Research Innovation and Wellcome Trust. This project is part of a tier 3 study (C-MORE) within the collaborative research programme entitled PHOSP-COVID Post-hospitalization COVID-19 study: a national consortium to understand and improve long-term health outcomes, funded by the Medical Research Council and Department of Health and Social Care/National Institute for Health Research Grant (MR/V027859/1) ISRCTN number 10980107.