Background: In the spring of 2020, New York City was an epicenter of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The post-hospitalization needs of COVID-19 patients were not understood and no outpatient rehabilitation programs had been described. Objective: To evaluate whether a virtual rehabilitation program would lead to improvements in strength and cardiopulmonary endurance when compared with no intervention in patients discharged home with persistent COVID-19 symptoms. Design: Prospective cohort study. Setting: Academic medical center. Patients: Between April and July 2020, 106 patients discharged home with persistent COVID-19 symptoms were treated. Forty-four patients performed virtual physical therapy (VPT); 25 patients performed home physical therapy (HPT); 17 patients performed independent exercise program (IE); and 20 patients did not perform therapy. Interventions: All patients were assessed by physiatry. VPT sessions were delivered via secure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliant telehealth platform 1-2 times/week. Patients were asked to follow up 2 weeks after initial evaluation. Main Outcome Measures: Primary study outcome measures were the change in lower body strength, measured by the 30-second sit-to-stand test; and the change in cardiopulmonary endurance, measured by the 2-minute step test. Results: At the time of follow-up, 65% of patients in the VPT group and 88% of patients in the HPT group met the clinically meaningful difference for improvement in sit-to-stand scores, compared with 50% and 17% of those in the IE group and no-exercise group (P =.056). The clinically meaningful difference for improvement in the step test was met by 74% of patients in the VPT group and 50% of patients in the HPT, IE, and no-exercise groups (P =.12). Conclusions: Virtual outpatient rehabilitation for patients recovering from COVID-19 improved lower limb strength and cardiopulmonary endurance, and an HPT program improved lower limb strength. Virtual rehabilitation seems to be an efficacious method of treatment delivery for recovering COVID-19 patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
- Clinical Neurology