Characteristics and predictors for silent hypoxemia in a cohort of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.Auton Neurosci. 2021 Jul 17; 235:102855.AN
An intriguing feature recently unveiled in some COVID-19 patients is the "silent hypoxemia" phenomenon, which refers to the discrepancy of subjective well-being sensation while suffering hypoxia, manifested as the absence of dyspnea.
To describe the clinical characteristics and predictors of silent hypoxemia in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
We conducted a prospective cohort study including consecutive hospitalized adult (≥ 18 years) patients with confirmed COVID-19 presenting to the emergency department with oxygen saturation (SpO2) ≤ 80% on room air from March 15 to June 30, 2020. We analyzed the characteristics, disease severity, and in-hospital outcomes of patients presenting with dyspnea and those without dyspnea (silent hypoxemia).
We studied 470 cases (64.4% men; median age 55 years, interquartile range 46-64). There were 447 (95.1%) patients with dyspnea and 23 (4.9%) with silent hypoxemia. The demographic and clinical characteristics, comorbidities, laboratory and imaging findings, disease severity, and outcomes were similar between groups. Higher breathing and heart rates correlated significantly with lower SpO2 in patients with dyspnea but not in those with silent hypoxemia. Independent predictors of silent hypoxemia were the presence of new-onset headache (OR 2.919, 95% CI 1.101-7.742; P = 0.031) and presenting to the emergency department within the first eight days after symptoms onset (OR 3.183, 95% CI 1.024-9.89; P = 0.045).
Patients with silent hypoxemia sought medical attention earlier and had new-onset headache more often. They were also likely to display lower hemodynamic compensatory responses to hypoxemia, which may underestimate the disease severity.