COVID-19 causes lung parenchymal and endothelial damage that lead to hypoxic acute respiratory failure (hARF). The influence of hARF severity on patients' outcomes is still poorly understood.
Observational, prospective, multicentre study.
Three academic hospitals in Milan (Italy) involving three respiratory high dependency units and three general wards.
Consecutive adult hospitalised patients with a virologically confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Patients aged <18 years or unable to provide informed consent were excluded.
Anthropometrical, clinical characteristics and blood biomarkers were assessed within the first 24 hours from admission. hARF was graded as follows: severe (partial pressure of oxygen to fraction of inspired oxygen ratio (PaO2/FiO2) <100 mm Hg); moderate (PaO2/FiO2 101-200 mm Hg); mild (PaO2/FiO2 201-300 mm Hg) and normal (PaO2/FiO2 >300 mm Hg).
The primary outcome was the assessment of clinical characteristics and in-hospital mortality based on the severity of respiratory failure. Secondary outcomes were intubation rate and application of continuous positive airway pressure during hospital stay.
412 patients were enrolled (280 males, 68%). Median (IQR) age was 66 (55-76) years with a PaO2/FiO2 at admission of 262 (140-343) mm Hg. 50.2% had a cardiovascular disease. Prevalence of mild, moderate and severe hARF was 24.4%, 21.9% and 15.5%, respectively. In-hospital mortality proportionally increased with increasing impairment of gas exchange (p<0.001). The only independent risk factors for mortality were age ≥65 years (HR 3.41; 95% CI 2.00 to 5.78, p<0.0001), PaO2/FiO2 ratio ≤200 mm Hg (HR 3.57; 95% CI 2.20 to 5.77, p<0.0001) and respiratory failure at admission (HR 3.58; 95% CI 1.05 to 12.18, p=0.04).
A moderate-to-severe impairment in PaO2/FiO2 was independently associated with a threefold increase in risk of in-hospital mortality. Severity of respiratory failure is useful to identify patients at higher risk of mortality.