LOS ANGELES – Cedars-Sinai announced Tuesday that it has launched a COVID-19 recovery program to help a growing number of patients who experience lingering symptoms weeks or months after they are declared free of the coronavirus.
“Los Angeles is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. right now and we expect to see many more recovered patients with persistent symptoms, which could have a huge impact on the local workforce,” said Dr. Rachel Zabner, an infectious disease specialist and the co-director of the COVID-19 Recovery Program. “These patients need the right medical support and sometimes require extended medical leave.”
Zabner noted that doctors have seen many young patients and others who initially had a very mild illness experiencing long-term effects from COVID-19. The program allows patients to receive a comprehensive in-person evaluation with an expert in infectious diseases or pulmonary medicine who can refer them to a network of specialists including cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists and psychiatrists.
“Given the sheer number of people worldwide who have had COVID-19 — more than 90 million — if even 1% experience symptoms beyond three months, that is a huge number of patients who need help,” said Dr. Catherine Le, a program co-director and an infectious disease specialist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Group. “For some patients, we are the first physicians they’ve seen in person since their diagnosis. Even if we don’t have all the answers right now, it puts many of our patients at ease to speak with an expert and get a complete evaluation.”
Patients must be referred by a physician, have had COVID-19 confirmed by a positive test result and be experiencing persistent symptoms to be eligible for treatment in the program, according to Cedars-Sinai.
“By seeking care in our program, patients also can benefit from our close collaboration with Cedars-Sinai investigators conducting a variety of clinical trials. As the scientific community learns more about the effects of COVID-19, we can notify our patients when relevant treatments become available,” said Dr. Caroline Goldzweig, Cedars-Sinai Medical Network’s chief medical officer. “We want our patients and the community to know that we’re not only here to care for them during this crisis, but we’re here to support them in the long term as well.”
The program works closely with two other Cedars-Sinai efforts — the Smidt Heart Institute’s Post-COVID-19 Cardiology Program, which enrolls patients who have been diagnosed with a heart issue associated with post-COVID- 19 recovery, and the Cedars-Sinai Department of Medicine’s Post-ICU Clinic, which focuses primarily on respiratory and neurological problems that develop in some intensive care unit patients after they are discharged.