Introduction: Critical COVID-19 survivors have a high risk of respiratory sequelae. Therefore, we aimed to identify key factors associated with altered lung function and CT scan abnormalities at a follow-up visit in a cohort of critical COVID-19 survivors.
Methods: Multicenter ambispective observational study in 52 Spanish intensive care units. Up to 1327 PCR-confirmed critical COVID-19 patients had sociodemographic, anthropometric, comorbidity and lifestyle characteristics collected at hospital admission; clinical and biological parameters throughout hospital stay; and, lung function and CT scan at a follow-up visit.
Results: The median [p25–p75] time from discharge to follow-up was 3.57 [2.77–4.92] months. Median age was 60 [53–67] years, 27.8% women. The mean (SD) percentage of predicted diffusing lung capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) at follow-up was 72.02 (18.33)% predicted, with 66% of patients having DLCO < 80% and 24% having DLCO < 60%. CT scan showed persistent pulmonary infiltrates, fibrotic lesions, and emphysema in 33%, 25% and 6% of patients, respectively. Key variables associated with DLCO < 60% were chronic lung disease (CLD) (OR: 1.86 (1.18–2.92)), duration of invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) (OR: 1.56 (1.37–1.77)), age (OR [per-1-SD] (95%CI): 1.39 (1.18–1.63)), urea (OR: 1.16 (0.97–1.39)) and estimated glomerular filtration rate at ICU admission (OR: 0.88 (0.73–1.06)). Bacterial pneumonia (1.62 (1.11–2.35)) and duration of ventilation (NIMV (1.23 (1.06–1.42), IMV (1.21 (1.01–1.45)) and prone positioning (1.17 (0.98–1.39)) were associated with fibrotic lesions.
Conclusion: Age and CLD, reflecting patients’ baseline vulnerability, and markers of COVID-19 severity, such as duration of IMV and renal failure, were key factors associated with impaired DLCO and CT abnormalities.