Early rehabilitation in post-acute COVID-19 patients: data from an Italian COVID-19 Rehabilitation Unit and proposal of a treatment protocol

Claudio Curci, Fabrizio Pisano, Eleonora Bonacci, Danila M Camozzi, Claudia Ceravolo, Roberto Bergonzi, Silvia De Franceschi, Paolo Moro, Rodolfo Guarnieri, Martina Ferrillo, Francesco Negrini, Alessandro de Sire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is quickly spreading, putting under heavy stress health systems worldwide and especially Intensive Care Units (ICU). Rehabilitation Units have a crucial role in reducing disability in order to reintroduce patients in the community.

AIM: The aim of this study is to characterize pulmonary function and disability status and to propose an early rehabilitation protocol in a cohort of post-acute COVID-19 patients admitted to an Italian Rehabilitation Unit.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study.

SETTING: Inpatients Rehabilitation Unit.

POPULATION: Post-acute COVID-19 patients.

METHODS: Demographic, anamnestic and clinical characteristics, laboratory exams and medical imaging findings were collected for the entire cohort. Outcome measures evaluated at the admission in Rehabilitation Unit were: type of respiratory supports needed, fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO<inf>2</inf>), partial pressure of oxygen (PaO<inf>2</inf>), FiO<inf>2</inf>/PaO<inf>2</inf>, Barthel Index (BI), modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) Dyspnoea Scale, and 6-Minute Walking Test (6-MWT). Furthermore, we proposed an early rehabilitation protocol for COVID-19 patients based on baseline FiO2.

RESULTS: We included 32 post-acute COVID-19 patients (22 male and 10 female), mean aged 72.6±10.9 years. BI was 45.2±27.6, with patients in need of higher FiO<inf>2</inf> (≥40%) showing lower values: 39.6±25.7 vs. 53.3±29.3. All patients had grade 4 or 5 on the mMRC Dyspnea Scale. Only 14 COVID-19 patients were able to walk (43.7%). 6-MWT was feasible in 6 (18.8%) patients with a mean distance of 45.0±100.6 meters.

CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, our findings suggest that post-acute COVID-19 patients suffered from dyspnea and shortness of breath even for minimal activities, with a resulting severe disability, and only a few of them were able to perform 6-MWT with poor results. An early rehabilitation protocol was proposed according to the baseline conditions of the patients.

CLINICAL REHABILITATION IMPACT: This study could provide an accurate description of COVID-19 sub-acute patients admitted to a Rehabilitation Unit along with a proposal of treatment to help physicians to tailor the best possible rehabilitative treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-641
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections/diagnosis
  • Critical Illness/rehabilitation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Early Ambulation/methods
  • Exercise Therapy/methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units/statistics & numerical data
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics/statistics & numerical data
  • Pneumonia, Viral/diagnosis
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rehabilitation Centers/statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Therapy/methods
  • Treatment Outcome


Dive into the research topics of 'Early rehabilitation in post-acute COVID-19 patients: data from an Italian COVID-19 Rehabilitation Unit and proposal of a treatment protocol'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this