Post-COVID-19 includes a variety of symptoms that may persist long after the infection clears
By LILLY ACKERMAN – Science@theaggie.org
UC Davis Health’s Post-COVID-19 Clinic has provided treatment options for patients suffering from persistent symptoms after a previous infection with COVID-19, a condition colloquially referred to as post-COVID or long-term COVID.
According to Tracy Seward, who is a nurse practice manager at UC Davis Health Pulmonary rehabilitation programThe Post-COVID-19 Clinic was created out of a need to treat patients whose symptoms did not subside after a previous viral infection.
“These patients are commonly referred to as ‘long carriers,’ as their COVID symptoms have not resolved and these symptoms continue to negatively impact their daily lives,” Seward said via email. “At the UC Davis Post-COVID Clinic, we are able to assess the patient and determine their greatest need for care.”
Dr. Bradley Sanville, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UC Davis Health’s Department of Internal Medicinewho helped establish the Post-COVID-19 Clinic, explained the complex nature of post-COVID-19 and the need for personalized treatment.
“Post-COVID syndrome is a very diverse potential symptomatology that patients can have,” Sanville said. “[It ranges] from a single symptom to a collection of symptoms that do not necessarily have a single clearly defined cause.”
According to Aimee Kizziar, a respiratory therapist and supervisor for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, the various post-COVID-19 symptoms can also affect a patient’s life in many ways.
“It is concerning because post-COVID conditions are associated with a spectrum of physical, social, and psychological consequences, as well as functional limitations that can pose substantial challenges to a patient’s well-being and quality of life,” Kizziar said via email.
The range of symptoms these patients face often includes some type of respiratory distress, which is usually identified by exercise intolerance and shortness of breath, according to Sanville. This leads to many patient referrals to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at UC Davis Health.
According to two respiratory therapists and UC Davis coordinators for the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, Mallorie Mullendore and Veronica Encarnacion, the program has been treating patients referred by the Post-COVID-19 Clinic for nearly two years.
“The UC Davis Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is an AACVPR [American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation] accredited program that helps[s] lung disease patients through education, training, motivation and support,” Encarnacion and Mullendore said via email. “Our first Post COVID referral was in January 2021. We have continued to see an increase in Post COVID referrals. We have learned to be innovative and adaptable to everyone[‘s] should best help their progress.”
The program is eight weeks long and includes both in-person treatment sessions and virtual education sessions, according to Encarnacion and Mullendore. So far, patients have generally responded well and seen improvements in their condition post-COVID-19.
“Although we’ve struggled to determine exactly what’s causing these symptoms for these patients, they seem to improve when you put them on a supervised, highly prescribed exercise program,” Sanville said.
The pulmonary rehabilitation program at UC Davis Health has become a crucial treatment provider for these patients and will likely continue to do so as the Post-COVID-19 Clinic sees more patients with persistent symptoms.
Additionally, the general field of respiratory therapy has pioneered the treatment of respiratory distress caused by COVID-19, asserting its importance within the healthcare system.
“I think the demand for respiratory therapy will continue to remain,” Mullendore said via email. “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the respiratory care profession and many people inside and outside of healthcare have a better understanding of the important role of RTs. [Respiratory Therapists] play in the country’s health care system – inpatient and outpatient care.”
Written by: Lilly Ackerman – Science@theaggie.org