Study objectives: To characterize the long-term pulmonary function and health status in a prospectively identified cohort of patients who survived the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Design: Prospective follow-up cohort study.
Setting: University-affiliated hospital.
Patients: Ninety-four patients who recovered from SARS were assessed at a uniform time point of 1 year after hospital discharge.
Measurements: The study included the measurement of static and dynamic lung volumes, the determination of the diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide (Dlco), and a health status evaluation using the St. George Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ).
Results: Eleven patients (12%) had mild impairment of FVC, 20 (21%) had mild impairment of FEV1, 5 (5%) had mild impairment of the FEV1/FVC ratio, and 17 (18%) had mild impairment of the Dlco. There was one patient (1%) who had moderate impairment of FVC, one patient (1%) who had moderate impairment of the FEV1/FVC ratio, and three patients (3%) who had moderate impairment of the Dlco. No pulmonary function abnormalities were detected in 59 patients (63%). Mean scores were significantly higher (ie, worse) than the population norms in the activity (p < 0.001), impacts (p < 0.001), and total (p < 0.001) domains of the SGRQ.
Conclusions: One year after recovery from SARS, persistent pulmonary function impairment was found in about one third of patients. The health status of SARS survivors was also significantly worse compared with the healthy population. The main determinants of morbidity in recovered SARS patients need to be further defined.