A systematic review and meta-analysis of long COVID symptoms.
Natarajan A., Shetty A., Delanerolle G., Zeng Y., Zhang Y., Raymont V., Rathod S., Halabi S., Elliot K., Shi JQ., Phiri P.
BACKGROUND: Ongoing symptoms or the development of new symptoms following a SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis has caused a complex clinical problem known as "long COVID" (LC). This has introduced further pressure on global healthcare systems as there appears to be a need for ongoing clinical management of these patients. LC personifies heterogeneous symptoms at varying frequencies. The most complex symptoms appear to be driven by the neurology and neuropsychiatry spheres. METHODS: A systematic protocol was developed, peer reviewed, and published in PROSPERO. The systematic review included publications from the 1st of December 2019-30th June 2021 published in English. Multiple electronic databases were used. The dataset has been analyzed using a random-effects model and a subgroup analysis based on geographical location. Prevalence and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were established based on the data identified. RESULTS: Of the 302 studies, 49 met the inclusion criteria, although 36 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The 36 studies had a collective sample size of 11,598 LC patients. 18 of the 36 studies were designed as cohorts and the remainder were cross-sectional. Symptoms of mental health, gastrointestinal, cardiopulmonary, neurological, and pain were reported. CONCLUSIONS: The quality that differentiates this meta-analysis is that they are cohort and cross-sectional studies with follow-up. It is evident that there is limited knowledge available of LC and current clinical management strategies may be suboptimal as a result. Clinical practice improvements will require more comprehensive clinical research, enabling effective evidence-based approaches to better support patients.