• 88°

VCU Health opens long COVID clinic

A new VCU Health clinic is one of the first in Virginia dedicated to providing comprehensive care to individuals with chronic symptoms from COVID-19.

The VCU Health Long COVID-19 Clinic will opened to existing VCU Health patients, who have been referred by their provider Thursday.

“Many patients are experiencing chronic symptoms, whether they were hospitalized or weren’t even sick enough to be in the hospital. This clinic will give patients an opportunity to see specialists from a range of areas who can help them manage these long-term symptoms,” Wes Shepherd, M.D., a lung specialist in the Medical Respiratory ICU and Interventional Pulmonary Program at VCU Health said.

The clinic will serve patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have experienced persistent symptoms for more than 12 weeks after their initial diagnosis. It will open first — by referral only — to current VCU Health patients experiencing these lasting effects of COVID-19, with plans to expand services to patients referred by providers outside VCU Health in the future, as capacity allows.

Estimates vary as to how many people experience long COVID-19. A July 2020 Journal of the American Medical Association article found 87% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 reported one or more lasting symptoms 60 days after returning home from the hospital. An Annals of Internal Medicine study in December shows that one-third of patients who were not hospitalized had lingering symptoms 30 to 45 days after their diagnosis.

“The longer your symptoms persist from the original COVID infection, the more applicable this clinic would be for you,” Shepherd, also a professor of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at VCU School of Medicine, said. “People who are at least a few weeks out from their illness and they’re still having shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and other symptoms are the folks we are going to be looking for.”

In addition, the clinic will be open to patients who may be experiencing non-COVID-related issues stemming from lung damage or chronic cough, neurological symptoms, such as brain fog or decreased alertness, and heart problems, such as abnormal heartbeat.

Specialists from VCU Health’s Department of Neurology and divisions of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care and Cardiology in the Department of Internal Medicine will support the clinic in providing comprehensive care for patients’ lingering symptoms following COVID-19. While these doctors’ focus now is on lung, heart and brain symptoms, other specialties and research studies may be added in time depending on clinical needs and demand.

“As we see more reports of long COVID-19 nationwide, our specialists are prepared to offer much-needed care to patients across multiple specialties in one location through this Long COVID-19 Clinic,” Tom Yackel, M.D., president of MCV Physicians, said. “We are excited about this opportunity to provide specialized multidisciplinary care for our post-COVID-19 patients.”

The clinic will be located on VCU Health’s Stony Point Campus in Richmond. Existing VCU Health patients should speak to their care team if they are experiencing chronic symptoms from COVID-19.