Sep 30, 2021 Help for Lingering COVID Symptoms in Newark, New Jersey

A new program treats adults who have long-term health effects from the coronavirus.

COVID-19 took the world by surprise. Now, its aftereffects are providing a new challenge: A significant fraction of patients continues to experience health problems long after initial infection.

Christina Migliore, MD
Christina Migliore, MD

“First, we were hit with a tidal wave that was COVID-19. Now, we’re experiencing the next wave, post-COVID syndrome, and we still don’t know what its final damage will be,” says Christina Migliore, MD, Director of Pulmonary Hypertension and Advanced Lung Disease at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI) and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

Dr. Migliore oversees the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at NBI, working with a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

Post-COVID syndrome is marked by chronic and sometimes crippling exhaustion, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat and brain fog. A dry cough, chest pain, anxiety and depression also may be part of the condition.

“Most of our patients say symptoms come intermittently and in waves,” Dr. Migliore says. “Even when seated, they may feel fine one minute, and the next they can’t breathe.”

Who Gets Post-COVID Syndrome?

Even those who had a mild initial course of COVID-19 are vulnerable, and those with lasting symptoms tend to be in their 40s.

“These are relatively healthy people in the most active time of life,” says Esad Vucic, MD, PhD, a cardiovascular imaging specialist at NBI.

Esad Vucic, MD, PhD
Esad Vucic, MD, PhD

Twenty percent of patients have debilitating symptoms—and among that hardest-hit group, the majority are women, according to many observational studies, Dr. Migliore says.

Over 80 percent of long-haulers seen at the clinic and in post-COVID syndrome studies have fatigue and shortness of breath, 50 to 80 percent have forgetfulness and more than half experience a racing heartbeat.

Low lung function, inflamed heart muscle and kidney dysfunction are less common.

Though tests often show no lung damage and minimal heart damage,

“The symptoms alone make this a significant disease,” Dr. Migliore says. “Close to 60 percent of those with severe post-COVID symptoms are unable to return to work.

“If you’ve had COVID-19 and four to six weeks later still experience fatigue, shortness of breath, dry cough and other symptoms, see your primary care physician,” she advises.

What Are Possible Causes?

“Post-COVID syndrome is so new, we’re still investigating possible causes,” Dr. Vucic explains.

The virus may lurk at undetectable levels, or the body’s immune system may be stuck in overdrive, attacking not only the invading virus but also the body itself, he says.

A comprehensive workup, including heart, lungs and the nervous system, is needed to rule out serious side effects or non-COVID-19 culprits.

“We need to know what you have to know how to treat you,” Dr. Vucic says. “The clinic has the width and breadth to assess and treat patients with severe heart and lung damage or post-COVID syndrome.”

Personally tailored care, offered to adults only, may include therapy to restore lung function, strengthen the body, improve memory, retool diet or give emotional support.

To learn more about post-COVID recovery in Newark, visit the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center or call 973-926-4189.