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Univ. Iowa Health Care clinic to study long term issues caused by COVID-19

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on July 17, 2020. (Aaron...
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City on July 17, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 11:13 AM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - In June, University of Iowa Health Care opened its Respiratory Illness Clinic. This comes after Dr. Alejandro Comellas and his colleagues heard from recovered COVID-19 patients, who were still experiencing ongoing health issues.

“We have patients, for example, being infected back in March, still in August having symptoms, said Dr. Comellas. “We also see patients that seem to recover and then some symptoms come back again, kind of waxing and waning.”

He said some of the symptoms could be relative to asthma or fatigue.

“They describe kind of brain fog, so I think that the severity of your symptoms does not necessarily predict if you’re gonna have full recovery or not,” he said.

Dr. Comellas said in some patients, who had to spend time in the ICU, he’s seeing lung scarring and fibrosis.

“In the less severe patients, we’re seeing more airway disease, kind of an asthma COPD type, so we don’t know whether there’s a spectrum or a continuum in the way that the patients are presenting, or they’re really different groups that they’re going to be distributing in different characteristics and then having different needs in regards to their clinical care,” Dr. Comellas said.

Comellas is using the clinic to track the outcomes of the patients to see if the respiratory damage caused by the virus will improve over time or be more long term.

“We’re providing the clinical care, which is patients are coming in. They’re being seen in the clinic, and we’re doing full pulmonary function test, imaging as well as blood work,” he said. “The assumption was in the beginning that only the severe patients were the ones that would see this, but we have seen patients who have had mild disease, they have had symptoms, of course, and they still have symptoms.”

While the clinic has only treated at least 20 people, Dr. Comellas said he expects to see more patients with the long-term effects.

“I think that what is happening right now in Iowa with the epidemic and being number one in the nation, and the number of cases, we expect more cases to be coming through,” he said.

Click or tap here for more information about the clinic.

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