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Evaluation of Long COVID Patients Through the WHO ICF Framework

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of individuals continue to experience persistent respiratory symptoms long after the acute phase of the infection has resolved. This lingering condition, known as long COVID, has prompted an extensive study to better understand the multifaceted challenges faced by these patients. Utilizing the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework, researchers aimed to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the health and disability status of long COVID patients, striving to bridge the gap between clinical symptoms and the overall impact on quality of life.

Study Design and Methodology

This national, prospective, multicenter, cross-sectional study was conducted between February 2022 and November 2022, involving 213 patients (118 females, 95 males) aged between 20 and 85 years. Data collection was primarily based on patient interviews, acute medical management records, physical examination findings, rehabilitation outcomes, and laboratory test results. Each parameter was categorized according to the ICF linking rules into Component Body Functions (CBF), Component Body Structures (CBS), Component Activities and Participation (CAP), Component Environmental Factors (CEF), and Personal Factors.

Key Findings

The analysis revealed that 21 categories for CBF, one category for CBS, and 18 categories of CAP were identified as significant problems within the Turkish long COVID patient population. Additionally, among the CEF, eight categories were described as facilitators, while four were considered barriers.

Concrete Inferences

  • Persistent respiratory symptoms in long COVID patients frequently correlate with multiple impairments in body functions.
  • The ICF framework helps in identifying specific areas of activity and participation that are significantly impacted, guiding targeted rehabilitation efforts.
  • Environmental factors play a dual role, either facilitating or hindering the recovery process, highlighting the importance of a supportive environment in patient care.
  • Understanding personal factors is crucial for tailoring individual rehabilitation programs to enhance the quality of life.

The results from this study underscore the importance of a holistic approach in managing long COVID. By utilizing the ICF framework, healthcare providers can gain deeper insights into the various dimensions of health and impairment, which extend beyond the immediate physiological effects of the virus.

In conclusion, the application of the ICF framework in evaluating long COVID patients offers a comprehensive method to identify impairments, restrictions, and special needs, thereby facilitating better patient care and rehabilitation strategies.

Original Article: Turk J Phys Med Rehabil. 2023 Oct 12;69(4):410-423. doi: 10.5606/tftrd.2023.13455. eCollection 2023 Dec.

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