Study examines life changing impacts of COVID-19

A man leans against a balustradeResearchers from FSH have spent the past year examining the long term physical and mental health effects of COVID-19 on almost 350 people.

Life AfTER COVID-19, known as the LATER-19 study, is being led by FSH Senior Physiotherapist Associate Professor Dale Edgar (pictured right) with researchers gathering data from patients across Western Australia’s three tertiary hospital sites.

“We believe that through the LATER-19 trial we have been able to recruit one of the largest long term follow up cohorts in the world,” Associate Professor Edgar said.

“Of the 350 trial participants, around 150 were COVID-19 positive and we have 200 symptomatic controls for comparison.

“We continued to recruit after the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020 with a number of participants joining the trial after returning from overseas and completing their isolation period.” In the initial stages, the study monitored patient symptoms in hospital before moving on to physical assessments over time that tracked participant grip strength and sit-to-stand ability.

In addition to the physical testing, there was also a focus on the mental wellbeing of participants with over 50 participants followed up to determine if they would benefit from a referral to professional support.

“We really needed the full picture of each person’s health and wellbeing so we could enhance our understanding of the long-term recovery after COVID-19,” Associate Professor Edgar said.

“This infection definitely has long lasting effects; participants have shared stories of being unable to return to their private business or accelerating their retirement plans because of persistent severe fatigue, brain fog and muscle aches as well as permanently altered senses of smell and taste.

“It has been remarkable to see how generous participants have been with their time, often preferring to come into the hospitals to complete their physical assessments, and it just shows how committed people are to helping us find out as much as we can about this deadly and evolving infection.”

The final round of data collection is scheduled for early 2021 with summary statistics for all recruited patients available mid-year to model the long term recovery from COVID-19 and compare to other respiratory diseases.

Given the anticipated continuing global impact of COVID-19, the research findings will inform rehabilitation and other treatment interventions in Australia and beyond.

Read our research reports to learn more about research conducted across SMHS.

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Last Updated: 19/08/2021