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COVID-19 Mortality Associated With Easily Measurable Signs of Health

Patients with hypoxemia or tachypnea had an overall greater mortality risk compared to those without them.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of Washington School of Medicine has discovered that 2 easily measurable signs of health, respiration and blood-oxygen saturation, are predictive of a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19.

Results from the study were published in the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.

"Initially, most patients with COVID don't have difficulty breathing. They can have quite low oxygen saturation and still be asymptomatic," Nona Sotoodehnia, a co-lead author on the study said. "If patients follow the current guidance, because they may not get short of breath until their blood oxygen is quite low, then we are missing a chance to intervene early with life-saving treatment."

For the study, the investigators analyzed 1,095 cases of COVID-19 patients who were aged 18 years or older and were admitted to a hospital between March and June of 2020. A majority of the admitted patients had low blood-oxygen saturation (hypoxemia) or fast, shallow breathing (tachypnea). However, very few reported shortness of breath or coughing.

Findings from the study showed that of those admitted, 197 died in the hospital. The patients with hypoxemia had a mortality risk that was 1.8 to 4.0 times greater when compared to patients without it. Patients with tachypnea had a mortality risk that was 1.9 to 3.2 times greater than those without it.

Additionally, almost all of the patients with hypoxemia or tachypnea required the use of supplemental oxygen.

The investigators stated that this information can be relevant to family-medicine practitioners and virtual-care providers, because they are typically the first in line to be contacted when people find out that they have COVID-19.

"These findings apply to the lived experience of the majority of patients with COVID-19: being at home, feeling anxious, wondering how to know whether their illness will progress and wondering when it makes sense to go to the hospital," Neal Chatterjee, a lead co-author on the study said. "We recommend that the CDC and WHO consider recasting their guidelines to account for this population of asymptomatic people who actually merit hospital admission and care.”