News Department

St. Luke’s provides treatment for COVID ‘long haulers’

St. Luke’s is pleased to introduce its new COVID Recovery Clinic, a program dedicated to the treatment of post-COVID-19 patients with lingering symptoms.

St. Luke’s recognizes the prevalence of “long COVID” symptoms and the need to care for patients afflicted by these symptoms appropriately.  Incorporating the expertise of a half dozen different kinds of medical specialists, the program promises a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID, known as PASC.  Participants will benefit from specialized evaluation and a personalized treatment plan.

“Many people recovering from COVID continue to have long-lasting symptoms that impact their day-to-day lives. St. Luke’s is committed to helping these patients get access to the most appropriate care so they can find relief,” said St. Luke’s Senior Regional Medical Director Dennis McGorry, MD, who is spearheading the program. “We have developed a very organized way of dealing with these issues.”

Nationally, PASC of varying severity is being reported in up to 30% of children and adults following COVID infection.

Most typical COVID cases resolve in four weeks, explained Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke’s Vice President of Medical & Academic Affairs and Section Chief Emeritus of Infectious Diseases.  But for some, the symptoms aren’t going away. “Patients are going to their doctor, asking, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ In many cases, people are not getting the appropriate care.”

The most common after-effects these patients, or “long haulers,” experience include extreme fatigue, memory impairment, known as “brain fog,” anxiety and depression, breathing difficulty and heart muscle irregularities or irregular heartbeats.

Patients with persistent symptoms beyond four weeks are advised to go to their St. Luke’s primary care physician, who will be able to evaluate them and may refer them to the COVID Recovery Clinic for further treatment by appropriate medical specialists, McGorry said.

Depending on a patient’s specific symptoms and their severity, treatment can include cognitive and memory retraining, physical and occupational therapy, medication and group therapy for behavioral health issues as well as other interventions to address neurologic, pulmonary and cardiac problems. Select Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s locations are available to help “long hauler” patients who suffer physical or neurologic complications from COVID.

St. Luke’s has taken steps to help providers manage PASC, such as building a “smart set” algorithm into the electronic medical record system. The smart set guides physicians on ordering tests and imaging scans based on patients’ symptoms.

While some COVID after-effects may be mild, McGorry said, “The key is not missing something serious like a pulmonary embolism or cardiomyopathy (heart muscle issue) in these patients.” In a case where a patient’s “brain fog” is severe, he said “we may order an MRI to find out why.”

If you or a loved one believes you have “long COVID” or PASC, make an appointment with your St. Luke’s provider.  If you do not have a St. Luke’s provider, call 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537), option 7.

“We want patients to get the care and relief they need and deserve,” McGorry said.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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