Severe respiratory disease in COVID-19 includes acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) that may require ICU admission and mechanical ventilation. As a result, individuals may present with ongoing symptoms and complaints including reduced endurance and mobility, shortness of breath, and coughing.1
Radiological investigations may be of limited value as part of claims evidence, as studies have shown that high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) may only reveal minor fibrotic changes, and it is thought that functional impairment is likely neuromuscular in nature, rather than due to structural lung changes.2
The 6-minute walk test (6MWT) is a good measure of exercise tolerance, particularly when determining the longer-term effects of ARDS. At the end of the 6MWT, the patient’s oxygen saturation percentage, heart rate, and dyspnea rating are recorded, and the total distance covered during the 6 minutes calculated. Predicted normal values consider gender, age, height, and weight.3 It is found to be more indicative of impairment when spirometry results are within normal limits and HRCT reveals few or no abnormal findings.4
Improvement in respiratory function can occur over a lengthy period, up to five years post-ARDS; however, the most noticeable improvement can be expected in the first year following hospital admission.