A trial published in The BMJ has found that an online program of physical and mental health rehabilitation can significantly improve the quality of life for adults with long COVID. The eight-week REGAIN program, conducted through online group sessions, resulted in sustained improvements in fatigue, pain, and depression compared to usual care. This accessible and resource-efficient program can be delivered at scale and is expected to assist clinicians in the treatment of long COVID.
Long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 condition, is characterized by symptoms that persist or new symptoms that appear more than four weeks after the initial infection. As of March 2023, over 1.9 million people in the UK reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for more than 12 weeks, with 1.3 million experiencing symptoms beyond one year, and over 750,000 enduring symptoms for more than two years. These symptoms include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, memory loss, and muscle aches, all of which adversely affect quality of life, social interaction, and economic productivity.
Although rehabilitation programs have been suggested as a potential solution for long COVID, there has been a lack of trial data regarding their benefits or drawbacks. Therefore, researchers conducted a trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a structured, online, supervised group rehabilitation program on health-related quality of life for adults with long COVID.
The trial involved 585 participants, with an average age of 56 years, who had been discharged from the hospital at least three months earlier after contracting COVID-19 and experiencing lasting effects attributed to the virus. After gathering information about their health and lifestyle, 287 participants were assigned to receive usual care, which consisted of a single online session of advice and support from a trained practitioner, and 298 participants were assigned to the REGAIN intervention.
The REGAIN intervention, which lasted for eight weeks, consisted of weekly home-based, live, supervised exercise and psychological support sessions delivered online. The findings of the trial revealed that the REGAIN intervention was well tolerated and led to sustained improvements in health-related quality of life at three and 12 months, in comparison to usual care. The improvements were mainly driven by reduced fatigue, pain, and depression.
At the three-month mark, 17% of the intervention group reported a significant improvement in their overall health, compared to only 8% in the usual care group. Among the 21 reported serious adverse events, only one case related to the intervention itself, indicating that the program is both acceptable and safe for participants.
However, the researchers note some limitations of the trial, such as the inability to mask trial participants or REGAIN practitioners to treatment allocation and the low representation of non-white individuals, accounting for only 11% of the participants.
In conclusion, the REGAIN program has demonstrated its efficacy in improving the quality of life for adults with long COVID. With its online delivery format, it offers a scalable and resource-efficient solution that can assist clinicians in effectively treating this complex condition.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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