Most patients who survived severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had good physical recovery, but they or their caregivers often reported a decline in mental health one year later, according to a study in the June 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Catherine M. Tansey, M.Sc., University Health Network, Toronto, and colleagues, evaluated 117 SARS survivors from Toronto who were discharged from the hospital in 2003. Patients were evaluated 3, 6 and 12 months after leaving the hospital by undergoing a physical examination, a six-minute walk test, a lung function test, a chest X-ray and quality-of-life measures and reporting how often they saw a physician.
General health, vitality and social functioning remained below the normal range one year after discharge from the hospital. Many patients returned to work part-time, increasing their workload over the first two months while 23 patients returned to work full-time with no need for a modified schedule. “At one year, 17 percent of patients had not returned to work, and a further 9 percent had not returned to their pre-SARS level of work,” the authors note.
“We have shown that most SARS survivors have pulmonary and functional recovery from their acute illness. However, one year after discharge from hospital, health-related quality of life remained lower than in the general population, and patients reported important decrements in mental health. These findings are reflected in the notable utilization of psychiatric and psychological services in the one-year follow-up period,” the authors conclude.