Busy ICU linked to increase in COVID-19 deaths, study finds

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COVID-19 patients treated in the intensive care unit during peak occupancy periods were nearly twice as likely to die compared to those treated during periods of lower ICU occupancy, according to a JAMA Network Open study published Jan. 19. 

The cohort study included 8,516 COVID-19 patients treated across 88 Veterans Affairs hospitals between March and August, with a follow up period through November. Results found the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality was lowest at 0.99 for patients treated when COVID-19 ICU demand was between 25 percent and 50 percent, and highest at 1.94 when the COVID-19 ICU demand was 75 percent to 100 percent. 

Results also showed the mortality rate varied over time, with the highest at 25 percent in April and lowest at 12.5 percent in July. 

The study did not find an association between COVID-19 ICU load and mortality for COVID-19 patients outside of the ICU. 

"Public health officials and hospital administrators may seek to prevent high COVID-19 ICU demand to optimize outcomes for patients with COVID-19," researchers concluded. 

To view the full study, click here. 

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