More than one in three coronavirus patients admitted to ICUs in the U.S. die within a month of being placed in intensive care, a new study finds.
As cases increase in many U.S. states – most dramatically soaring in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma – hospital admissions are starting to rise and the nation is holding its breath to fill ICU beds.
New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests that where a patient ends up in critical care, it can have a dramatic effect on their chances of survival.
People admitted to intensive care units in hospitals with fewer than 50 ICU beds were more than three times more likely to die, compared to patients in hospitals with 100 or more such beds, they found.
ICU beds are filling up in states like Mississippi, as coronavirus cases are on the rise in the U.S. A new study found that more than a third of ICU patients died in 65 hospitals
For the Brigham and Women’s study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 2,000 IC patients in 65 hospitals.
All patients were admitted on March 4 and April 4 – which was then considered the peak of the pandemic in the US.
Overall, 784 of the patients admitted to ICUs in much of the US died in less than a month (28 days).
Patients who suffered from chronic diseases, including kidney and liver dysfunction, obesity, heart disease, cancer, or low oxygen, were at greater risk of death, as is commonly seen.
Also consistent with previous data, men and older patients were at greater risk of succumbing to COVID-19.
But the mortality rates varied greatly from hospital to hospital.
In some ICs, only six percent of patients died, while in others, the death rate rose to 80 percent.
While the study did not determine what types of treatments would work best, the authors found large differences in the methods chosen from hospital to hospital.
At the time, hydroxychloroquine was certainly controversial, but still considered optimistic by many doctors across the country.
Nearly 80 percent of patients received the malaria drug, and nearly 60 percent received the antibiotic azithromycin, which was used in combination with hydroxychloroquine to treat 50 percent of patients.
Only 6.1 percent of patients received remdesivir – which has now been shown to reduce coronavirus severity and risk of death – and 3.8 percent received a combination of HIV drugs now believed to be ineffective against the disease.
Overall, 38 percent of patients were placed in the prone position to help them breathe more easily, but the use of that method varied drastically from hospital to hospital.
In one hospital, only four percent of patients were placed on their bellies, while 80 percent of critically ill people were turned over in another.
But the main difference in death rates came from the hospital itself – especially how many IC beds the facility was supposed to start.
Seriously ill patients admitted to hospitals with 50 or fewer ICU beds had a three-fold lower survival rate than patients who received care in larger institutions with 100 or fewer beds.
It is not clear exactly why patients in these smaller hospitals faced so many worse opportunities, but these facilities may have had no staff or resources and were more tense than others.
Coronavirus is still hitting cities the hardest – now striking metropolitan areas like Miami-Dade County in Florida, Houston, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona – but it’s also starting to overwhelm less populated areas.
As of Thursday, a third of Florida counties will have fewer than 10 ICU beds left.
Less than 10 percent of all hospitals in the state have more than 50 hospitals, and if the trends observed by the Brigham and Women’s team remain true, it could be a bad predictor of the rising number of coronavirus patients in Florida.