Coronavirus killed nearly 40% of critically ill patients treated at two New York City hospitals in the early days of the pandemic, doctors reported Tuesday.
An in-depth look at more than 1,100 patients treated at two Columbia University hospitals showed a high rate of severe illness and death in March, when New York was suffering the worst outbreak in the US.
“As of 28 April 2020, almost 40% of the critically ill patients had died and more than one third remained in hospital. Less than one quarter had been discharged alive,” Dr. Natalie Yip of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and colleagues wrote in the Lancet medical journal.
Yip and colleagues examined the cases of 1,150 adults admitted to Columbia’s two hospitals in northern Manhattan in March. Of them, 257 or 22% were critically ill.
“The majority of critically ill patients were men (67%),” they wrote. While most critically ill patients were on average 62, 1 in 5 were under 50.
“More than 80% of critically ill patients had at least one chronic illness,” they added. More than 60% had high blood pressure and 36% had diabetes. Close to half were obese. These have all been noted in other studies to raise the risk of severe disease.
Most of the critically ill patients, 79%, needed ventilators to breathe and they stayed on those ventilators for an average of 18 days, the team reported. And 31% needed dialysis because of kidney damage.
“This has important implications for resource allocation in hospitals, where access to equipment and specialized staff needed to deliver this level of care is limited,” Dr. Max O’Donnell of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who led the study team, said in a statement.
While 81% of the patients got either hydroxychloroquine or remdesivir, the study could not show whether either drug helped.
Many of the patients belonged to ethnic minorities. “Specifically, our cohort included a high proportion of Hispanic or Latino and black or African American patients who are known to have higher prevalence of cardiometabolic comorbidities and socioeconomic vulnerabilities that may make social distancing and access to care more difficult,” the team wrote.