Patients who have been hospitalized because of a COVID-19 infection are treated for their low oxygen level (hypoxia) with supplemental oxygen. At the time of discharge, many are sent home with long term oxygen therapy (LTOT). A recent study was conducted to assess patients who were using long term oxygen therapy in the post-COVID period to see if the need for oxygen support persisted. The assessments were made at the post hospital follow up visits, which averaged about two months.
15% of the patients assessed died during the post-COVID period, and oxygen support continued to be needed for 22.9% of the patients followed. The risk factors for the ongoing need for home oxygen depended upon risk for pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs) and previous admissions to the intensive care unit while hospitalized.
The conclusion of this study is that most patients who have experienced a COVID-19 infection and were hospitalized will not require long term oxygen therapy during the post-COVID period. Healthcare providers need to be more selective about who is given home oxygen and in what form (tanks, concentrators, etc.). This selectivity will require monitoring following discharge with more frequent checks of the patient’s oxygen needs. More frequent healthcare assessments during the post-COVID period will help reduce the need for home oxygen, but also importantly, identify those patients that have longer term issues with their oxygen levels and are in need of more aggressive testing and evaluation.