Altered tissue oxygenation in patients with post COVID-19 syndrome


Background: Post COVID-19 syndrome (PCS) is a complex condition with partly substantial impact on patients' social and professional life and overall life quality. Currently, the underlying cause(s) of PCS are unknown. Since PCS-specific symptoms could be associated with systemic alterations in tissue oxygen supply, we aimed to investigate changes in tissue oxygenation in patients with PCS. Methods: A case-control study including 30 PCS patients (66.6 % males, 48.6 ± 11.2 years, mean time after (first) acute infection: 324 days), 16 cardiologic patients (CVD) (65.5 % males, 56.7 ± 6.3 years) and 11 young healthy controls (55 % males, 28.5 ± 7.4 years) was conducted. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was used to assess changes in tissue oxygenation during an arterial occlusion protocol on the non-dominant forearm (brachioradialis, 760/850 nm, 5 Hz). The protocol included 10-min rest, a 2-min baseline measurement followed by a 3-min ischemic period (upper-arm cuff, 50 mmHg above resting systolic blood pressure) and a 3-min reoxygenation period. PCS patients were grouped by presence of arterial hypertension and elevated BMI to assess the impact of risk factors. Results: No differences in mean tissue oxygenation in the pre-occlusion phase existed between groups (p ≥ 0.566). During ischemia, comparisons of linear regressions slopes revealed slower oxygen desaturation for PCS patients (-0.064 %/s) compared to CVD patients (-0.08 %/s) and healthy subjects (-0.145 %/s) (p textless 0.001). After cuff release, slowest speed for reoxygenation was detected in PCS patients at 0.84 %/s compared to CVD patients (1.04 %/s) and healthy controls (CG: 2.07 %/s) (p textless 0.001). The differences between PCS patients and CVD patients during ischemia remained significant also after correction for risk factors. Analyses of complications during acute infection, persistence of PCS symptoms (time after acute infection), or PCS severity (number of lead symptoms) as confounding factors did not reveal a significant effect. Conclusions: This study provides evidence that the rate of tissue oxygen consumption is persistently altered in PCS and that PCS patients show an even slower decline in tissue oxygenation during occlusion than CVD patients. Our observations may at least partly explain PCS-specific symptoms such as physical impairment and fatigue.

Microvascular Research