Assessment tool for chronic lung disease could support patients recovering from COVID

Researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) – a partnership between the University of Leicester, Leicester’s Hospitals and Loughborough University – have found that a widely used eight point questionnaire for COPD and other respiratory conditions may be a useful tool for assessing people’s health during COVID-19 recovery.

As COVID-19 is a new virus, specific ways to assess patient recovery needs have yet to be developed. It is clear that some patients experience a complex and lengthy recovery. Researchers hope that by using a pre-existing tool for assessing COPD symptoms, they can monitor people’s health and recovery and better care for their rehabilitation and treatment needs.

The COPD Assessment Test (CAT) is a questionnaire that asks patients about their health, including cough, breathlessness, sleep, and energy. Results allow healthcare professionals to assess whether patients need continued treatment.

The symptoms covered by the CAT closely resemble those often experienced by people recovering from COVID-19 infection which made this commonly used questionnaire a good candidate for tracking people’s recovery.

The study focused on patients who had been hospitalised with COVID-19 who were asked to complete the CAT along with other questionnaires to assess their recovery and health. The study found that the symptoms of breathlessness, loss of sleep and lack of energy were most severe in patients recovering from COVID-19.

Dr Enya Daynes, specialist pulmonary rehabilitation and research physiotherapist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and lead author of the study, said: “Now that we’re seeing the complex needs of some patients following COVID-19 infection it’s important we establish ways to monitor and assess their health throughout recovery.

“The CAT is a widely used tool in respiratory medicine, but it was not clear how well it captured the symptoms of those recovering from COVID-19. This study shows it may be useful for tracking recovery, however further research will be needed to examine how results of the CAT from COVID patients should be best translated into treatment and rehabilitation, and whether this is also suitable for patients who were not hospitalised but may be struggling with symptoms.”

Professor Sally Singh, Head of Pulmonary and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Leicester’s Hospitals and a professor at the University of Leicester said: “Results from this study also showed that patients recovered at very different rates. Patients who completed the CAT soon after leaving hospital were not necessarily more unwell than those who had been discharged several days or weeks ago. This further highlighted the need for a tool to assess patient symptoms and recovery as it is clearly complex and individual.”

The full paper can be accessed here: https://thorax.bmj.com/content/early/2020/11/04/thoraxjnl-2020-215916