Background: Persistence of respiratory symptoms, particularly breathlessness, after acute coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection has emerged as a significant clinical problem. We aimed to characterise and identify risk factors for patients with persistent breathlessness following COVID-19 hospitalisation.

Methods: PHOSP-COVID is a multicentre prospective cohort study of UK adults hospitalised for COVID-19. Clinical data were collected during hospitalisation and at a follow-up visit. Breathlessness was measured by a numeric rating scale of 0-10. We defined post-COVID-19 breathlessness as an increase in score of ≥1 compared to the pre-COVID-19 level. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify risk factors and to develop a prediction model for post-COVID-19 breathlessness.

Results: We included 1226 participants (37% female, median age 59 years, 22% mechanically ventilated). At a median 5 months after discharge, 50% reported post-COVID-19 breathlessness. Risk factors for post-COVID-19 breathlessness were socioeconomic deprivation (adjusted OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.14-2.44), pre-existing depression/anxiety (adjusted OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.06-2.35), female sex (adjusted OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.21-2.00) and admission duration (adjusted OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02). Black ethnicity (adjusted OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.35-0.89) and older age groups (adjusted OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.14-0.66) were less likely to report post-COVID-19 breathlessness. Post-COVID-19 breathlessness was associated with worse performance on the shuttle walk test and forced vital capacity, but not with obstructive airflow limitation. The prediction model had fair discrimination (concordance statistic 0.66, 95% CI 0.63-0.69) and good calibration (calibration slope 1.00, 95% CI 0.80-1.21).

Conclusions: Post-COVID-19 breathlessness was commonly reported in this national cohort of patients hospitalised for COVID-19 and is likely to be a multifactorial problem with physical and emotional components.


http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ This version is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence 4.0.

Cite as

Daines, L., Zheng, B., Elneima, O., Harrison, E., Lone, N., Hurst, J., Brown, J., Sapey, E., Chalmers, J., Quint, J., Pfeffer, P., Siddiqui, S., Walker, S., Poinasamy, K., McAuley, H., Sereno, M., Shikotra, A., Singapuri, A., Docherty, A., Marks, M., Toshner, M., Howard, L., Horsley, A., Jenkins, G., Porter, J., Ho, L., Raman, B., Wain, L., Brightling, C., Evans, R., Heaney, L., De Soyza, A. & Sheikh, A. 2023, 'Characteristics and risk factors for post-COVID-19 breathlessness after hospitalisation for COVID-19', ERJ Open Research, 9. https://doi.org/10.1183/23120541.00274-2022

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Last updated: 27 October 2023
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