Outcomes of patients with COVID-19 admitted to Intensive Care Units

  • Researchers from Monash University have monitored the outcomes of COVID-19 patients admitted to ICUs around the country since the outbreak hit Australian shores, as part of the SPRINT-SARI project
  • From February 27 to June 30, 204 patients were admitted to intensive care units in Australia with laboratory confirmed COVID-19.
  • The 204 patients had a median age of 63 years and 69% were male
  • 36% were otherwise healthy, while the remaining 64% experienced obesity, diabetes, or chronic cardiac disease.
  • ICU bed occupancy had a median peak of just 14%.
  • 58% of patients required invasive ventilation. They generally had a longer length of stay in the ICU and higher risk of death (22%) than those who weren’t invasively ventilated (5%)

A collaborative study led by Monash University has captured national data on the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to Intensive Care Units (ICUs) from the country’s first wave of the pandemic, from February 27th to June 30th 2020, revealing that Australia’s low ICU bed occupancy rate of 14 per cent contributed to earlier admission to ICUs for the sickest patients, and these factors were associated with a lower mortality rate than other countries.

Short PeRiod INcidence sTudy of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SPRINT-SARI) is a hospital-based surveillance database providing real-time tracking and reporting of COVID-19 patients requiring critical care. Run out of Monash University’s Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre , the study provides imperative insights into Australia’s healthcare system’s ability to cope with a pandemic and allows us to compare Australia’s performance with that of other countries to support the sickest patients. The latest report was published in the MJA.

Seventy-seven ICUs are participating in the study nationally. The new data release reveals 204 ICU admissions of COVID-positive patients occurred, of which 140 were male and 64 were female, with a median age of 63 years.

Reports from European countries, the USA, and parts of China found that the number of patients quickly exceeded their healthcare capacity and the number of patients invasively ventilated on day one of their ICU admission was between 70-90 per cent, compared to the 38 per cent found by SPRINT-SARI.

Overall, Australian ICU mortality was 15 per cent. The mortality of patients requiring invasive ventilation was 22 per cent compared to five per cent in non-ventilated patients. Ninety nine per cent of deaths were in patients aged 60 years and over.

Fifty eight per cent of the patients required invasive ventilation during their ICU stay. People requiring ventilation tended to be older (median age 68 years) than those that did not require ventilation (median age 61 years). While chronic diseases were seen across both groups, the ventilated cohort had a higher rate of obesity (44 per cent) and diabetes (37 per cent) than seen in the non-ventilated cohort, in which obesity was seen in 32 per cent and diabetes in 15 per cent. Older age and comorbidities therefore appear to be associated with a need for more invasive treatment.

Of the 56 per cent of patients that acquired COVID-19 through international travel, almost half were cruise ship travellers. Forty five per cent reported close contact with a confirmed or probable case, with eight per cent identifying themselves as a healthcare worker.

The project, led by Dr Aidan Burrell and Professor Andrew Udy of Monash University’s Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre (ANZIC‐RC), is also contributing the data to the University of Oxford, that is managing the global SPRINT-SARI database.

About the SPRINT-SARI study

In response to the COVID‐19 pandemic, the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group (ANZICS‐CTG), the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Center (ANZIC‐RC), Monash University, and with international collaborators at the University of Oxford, launched the SPRINT‐SARI database.

The goal of SPRINT‐SARI was to provide real time, detailed reporting of the sickest patients admitted to the ICU with confirmed or suspected COVID‐19 infection. This data is being used to inform the ongoing clinical management of patients and the public health response.


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