There are concerns regarding post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, but it is unclear whether COVID-19 poses a significant downstream mortality risk. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between COVID-19 infection and 12-month mortality after recovery from the initial episode of COVID-19 in adult patients. The study was conducted by Frontiers.
An analysis of electronic health records (EHR) was performed for a cohort of 13,638 patients, including COVID-19 positive and a comparison group of COVID-19 negative patients who were followed for a full year after a COVID-19 episode at one health system. Both COVID-19 positive patients and COVID-19 negative patients were PCR validated. COVID-19 positive patients were classified as severe if they were hospitalized within the first 30 days of the date of their initial positive test. The 12-month risk of mortality was assessed in unadjusted Cox regressions and those adjusted for age, sex, race and comorbidities. Subgroup analyses were conducted-- one for patients aged 65 and older, and a separate analysis for younger patients.Of the 13,638 patients included in this cohort, 178 had severe COVID-19, 246 had mild/moderate COVID-19, and 13,214 were COVID-19 negative. In the cohort, 2,686 died in the 12-month period. The 12-month adjusted all-cause mortality risk was significantly higher for patients with severe COVID-19 compared to both COVID-19 negative patients (HR 2.50; 95% CI 2.02, 3.09) and mild COVID-19 patients (HR 1.87; 95% CI 1.28, 2.74). The vast majority of deaths (79.5%) were for causes other than respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. Among patients aged <65 years, the pattern was similar but the mortality risk for patients with severe COVID-19 was increased compared to both COVID-19 negative patients (HR 3.33; 95% CI 2.35, 4.73) and mild COVID-19 patients (HR 2.83; 95% CI 1.59, 5.04). Patients aged 65 and older with severe COVID-19 were also at increased 12-month mortality risk compared to COVID-19 negative patients (HR 2.17; 95% CI 1.66, 2.84) but not mild COVID-19 patients (HR 1.41; 95% CI 0.84, 2.34).
Patients with a COVID-19 hospitalization were at significantly increased risk for future mortality. In a time when nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations are preventable this study points to an important and under-investigated sequela of COVID-19 and the corresponding need for prevention.
Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 is not well understood. For some patients, the post-acute complications can affect multiple organ systems and persist for many months affecting quality of life. Severe complications like post-acute thrombosis, respiratory failure, and cardiac and vascular damage may increase the likelihood of future morbidity and mortality in recovered COVID-19 patients (8–10). The data from cohort studies investigating these long-term complications post COVID-19 infection is quite limited, and studies mainly focus on complications leading to re-admission rather than post-acute complications. One study suggested that COVID-19 infection carries an increased 6-month mortality risk.