In an effort to help COVID-19 patients who experience lingering symptoms after physicians say they are virus-free, Cedars-Sinai has launched the COVID-19 Recovery Program. The multidisciplinary program offers patients a comprehensive in-person evaluation with an expert in infectious diseases or pulmonary medicine who can refer them to a network of specialists including cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists and psychiatrists. Patients also can gain access to clinical research trials and contribute to a deeper understanding of the long-term health effects of COVID-19.
Although many individuals recover from COVID-19 without any noticeable issues, others do not. Ongoing issues can include shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, or loss of taste or smell.
“Given the sheer number of people worldwide who have had COVID-19more than 90 millionif even 1% experience symptoms beyond three months, that is a huge number of patients who need help,” said program co-director Catherine Le, MD, an infectious disease specialist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Group. “For some patients, we are the first physicians they’ve seen in person since their diagnosis. Even if we don’t have all the answers right now, it puts many of our patients at ease to speak with an expert and get a complete evaluation.”
In addition to its network of specialists, the COVID-19 Recovery Program works closely with two other Cedars-Sinai efforts. Namely, the Smidt Heart Institute’s Post-COVID-19 Cardiology Program, which enrolls patients who have been diagnosed with a heart issue associated with post-COVID-19 recovery. An additional resource is the Cedars-Sinai Department of Medicine’s Post-ICU Clinic, which focuses primarily on respiratory and neurological problems that develop in some intensive care unit patients after they are discharged.
“Los Angeles is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. right now and we expect to see many more recovered patients with persistent symptoms, which could have a huge impact on the local workforce,” said Cedars-Sinai Medical Group infectious disease specialist Rachel Zabner, MD, co-director of the COVID-19 Recovery Program. “These patients need the right medical support and sometimes require extended medical leave.”
Zabner added that anyone can experience the long-term effects of COVID-19. “We’ve seen many young patients and others who initially had a very mild illness.”
To be eligible for treatment in the new program, patients must be referred by a physician, have a confirmed positive COVID- 19 test result and be experiencing persistent symptoms.
“By seeking care in our program, patients also can benefit from our close collaboration with Cedars-Sinai investigators conducting a variety of clinical trials. As the scientific community learns more about the effects of COVID-19, we can notify our patients when relevant treatments become available,” said Cedars-Sinai Medical Network Chief Medical Officer Caroline Goldzweig, MD. “We want our patients and the community to know that we’re not only here to care for them during this crisis, but we’re here to support them in the long term as well.”
More information about the COVID-19 Recovery Program is available at https://www.cedars-sinai.org/covid-19-your-health/post-covid-19-recovery.html.