Exercise responses and mental health symptoms in COVID-19 survivors with dyspnoea.

Milne KM; Cowan J; Schaeffer MR; Voduc N; Chirinos JA; Abdallah SJ; Guenette JA;

ERJ open research [ERJ Open Res] 2023 Jun 19; Vol. 9 (3).
Date of Electronic Publication: 2023 Jun 19 (Print Publication: 2023).

Objectives: Dyspnoea is a common persistent symptom post-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) illness. However, the mechanisms underlying dyspnoea in the post-COVID-19 syndrome remain unclear. The aim of our study was to examine dyspnoea quality and intensity, burden of mental health symptoms, and differences in exercise responses in people with and without persistent dyspnoea following COVID-19.
Methods: 49 participants with mild-to-critical COVID-19 were included in this cross-sectional study 4 months after acute illness. Between-group comparisons were made in those with and without persistent dyspnoea (defined as modified Medical Research Council dyspnoea score ≥1). Participants completed standardised dyspnoea and mental health symptom questionnaires, pulmonary function tests, and incremental cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
Results: Exertional dyspnoea intensity and unpleasantness were increased in the dyspnoea group. The dyspnoea group described dyspnoea qualities of suffocating and tightness at peak exercise (p<0.05). Ventilatory equivalent for carbon dioxide ( VE / VCO 2 ) nadir was higher (32±5 versus 28±3, p<0.001) and anaerobic threshold was lower (41±12 versus 49±11% predicted maximum oxygen uptake, p=0.04) in the dyspnoea group, indicating ventilatory inefficiency and deconditioning in this group. The dyspnoea group experienced greater symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress (all p<0.05). A subset of participants demonstrated gas-exchange and breathing pattern abnormalities suggestive of dysfunctional breathing.
Conclusions: People with persistent dyspnoea following COVID-19 experience a specific dyspnoea quality phenotype. Dyspnoea post-COVID-19 is related to abnormal pulmonary gas exchange and deconditioning and is linked to increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.
Competing Interests: Conflict of interest: K.L. Lavoie reports consulting fees from AbbVie, Takeda, Astellas, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Novartis, GSK, Bausch and Sojecci Inc., outside the submitted work; payment or honoraria from AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Takeda, Pfizer, Merck, GSK, Astra-Zeneca, Novartis, Janssen, Bayer, Mundi Pharma, Bayer, Air Liquide, Astellas and Xfacto, outside the submitted work; and participation on a Data Safety Monitoring Board or Advisory Board for Astra-Zeneca, GSK and Bausch, outside the submitted work. Conflict of interest: J. Cowan reports support for the present manuscript from The Ottawa Hospital Foundation; grants or contracts from Octapharma and Takeda, outside the submitted work; payment or honoraria from GSK, Sanofi, EMD Serono, Alexion and Takeda, outside the submitted work; and support for attending meetings and/or travel from Octapharma, outside the submitted work. Conflict of interest: J.A. Chirinos reports grants or contracts from University of Pennsylvania research grants from National Institutes of Health, Fukuda-Denshi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Microsoft and Abbott, outside the submitted work; consulting fees from Bayer, Sanifit, Fukuda-Denshi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, JNJ, Edwards Life Sciences, Merck, NGM Biopharmaceuticals and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, outside the submitted work; patents planned, issued or pending: inventor in a University of Pennsylvania patent for the use of inorganic nitrates/nitrites for the treatment of Heart Failure and Preserved Ejection Fraction and for the use of biomarkers in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, outside the submitted work; participant on advisory board for BMS, outside the submitted work; Vice President of North American Artery Society, outside the submitted work; received research device loans from Atcor Medical, Fukuda-Denshi, Uscom, NDD Medical Technologies, Microsoft and MicroVision Medical, outside the submitted work; received payments for editorial roles from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and Wiley, outside the submitted work. Conflict of interest: J.A. Guenette is an associate editor of this journal. Conflict of interest: The remaining authors have nothing to disclose.