Consistency of inconsistency in long-COVID-19 pain symptoms persistency: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Oleg Kerzhner*, Einat Berla, Meirav Har-Even, Motti Ratmansky, Itay Goor-Aryeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Individuals recovering from acute COVID-19 episodes may continue to suffer from various ongoing symptoms, collectively referred to as Long-COVID. Long-term pain symptoms are amongst the most common and clinically significant symptoms to be reported for this post-COVID-19 syndrome. Objectives: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the proportions of persisting pain symptoms experienced by individuals past the acute phase of COVID-19 and to identify their associated functional consequences and inflammatory correlates. Methods: Two online databases were systematically searched from their inception until 31 March 2022. We searched primary research articles in English, which evaluated individuals after laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 acute phase resolution and specifically reported on pain symptoms and their inflammatory and/or functional outcomes. Results: Of the 611 identified articles, 26 were included, used for data extraction, and assessed for their methodological quality and risk of bias by two independent reviewers. Pain symptoms were grouped under one of six major pain domains, serving as our primary co-outcomes. Proportional meta-analyses of pooled logit-transformed values of single proportions were performed using the random-effects-restricted maximum-likelihood model. An estimated 8%, 6%, 18%, 18%, 17%, and 12% of individuals continued to report the persistence of chest, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal joint, musculoskeletal muscle, general body, and nervous system-related pain symptoms, respectively, for up to one year after acute phase resolution of COVID-19. Considerable levels of heterogeneity were demonstrated across all results. Functional and quality-of-life impairments and some inflammatory biomarker elevations were associated with the persistence of long-COVID pain symptoms. Conclusion: This study's findings suggest that although not well characterized, long-COVID pain symptoms are being experienced by non-negligible proportions of those recovering from acute COVID-19 episodes, thus highlighting the importance of future research efforts to focus on this aspect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-159
Number of pages40
JournalPain Practice
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • chronic pain
  • functional outcomes
  • inflammation
  • long COVID
  • meta-analysis
  • pain
  • pain symptoms
  • post-COVID-19 syndrome
  • systematic review

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