Patients of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) treated in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) during periods of increased demand are nearly twice as likely to die from the disease compared to those who receive care during low-demand periods, a study published on Wednesday by JAMA Network Open said.
Those who receive care in ICUs operating at 75- to 100-percent capacity with Covid-19 patients had a 94-percent higher risk for death compared to those treated for the disease in facilities at less than 25 percent of capacity, the data showed.
Patients in ICUs at 25 to 50 percent because of Covid-19 outbreaks had a 19-percent higher risk for death.
Hospitals in many parts of the United States have reported being overwhelmed with patients requiring ICU treatment during the pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 79 percent of ICU beds were occupied as of Jan. 14, and one-fifth of US hospital ICUs were 95-percent full.
The increased risk for death in busy ICUs could reflect the strain in resources, including staff and equipment, caused by surges in cases and demand for care – as well as higher disease severity among the patients there, the researchers said.
“The data show that mortality increases during periods of peak demand,”said Dr. Dawn M. Bravata, a physician scientist with the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“Therefore, the more patients can do to avoid infection, the better,” she said.
Of the nearly 920,000 hospital beds in the United States, about 10 percent of them are ICU beds, according to figures from the American Hospital Association.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has been estimated that up to 30 percent of Covid-19 patients require treatment in the ICU, with many needing mechanical ventilator support to breathe, research suggests.
For this study, VA researchers tracked 8,516 patients with Covid-19 admitted to 88 VA hospitals nationally between March and August 2020.
Of the patients, 1,410, or 17 pecent, died from the disease – roughly 44 percent of the deaths were in March and April, during the early stages of the pandemic – the researchers said. SOVEREIGNPH