The first week and a half after leaving the hospital has a high risk for patients with COVID-19, including trips back to the hospital and death, according to a study. Researchers found that COVID-19 patients had a 40 to 60 percent higher risk of ending up back in the hospital or dying in the first 10 days, compared with similar patients treated in the same hospitals during the same months due to heart failure or pneumonia.
The study, published in the journal JAMA, found that by the end of 60 days, the overall risk of readmission or death of COVID-19 patients was lower than that for the other two serious conditions. It compared posthospital outcomes for nearly 2,200 veterans who survived their hospitalization in 132 hospitals for COVID-19, with outcomes for nearly 1,800 similar patients who survived a stay for pneumonia unrelated to the disease, and 3,500 who survived a heart failure relationship.
In the first two months, 9% of the patients with COVID-19 who survived hospitalization died, and nearly 20% suffered a failure that sent them back to the hospital, the researchers said. That added to the 18.5 percent who died during their hospitalization, they said. “Comparing the long-term outcomes of COVID-19 patients with those of other seriously ill patients, we see a pattern of even greater than usual risk right in the first one to two weeks, which can be a risky period for anyone,” said John P. Donnelly, the first author of the study and an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan in the United States.
All but 5 percent of the patients were male, and half were Black, which is not nationally representative, but involves two at-risk groups. However, within the veterans studied, the only factor that made a significant difference in outcomes was age, the researchers said. About half of veterans in their 70s and 80s died within 60 days of leaving the hospital, they said.
The 2,179 COVID-19 patients spent a total of 27,496 days in the hospital, and the 354 veterans readmitted spent a total of 3,728 additional days in the hospital. The most common reasons listed for rehospitalization were COVID-19, cited in 30 percent of patients, and sepsis seen in 8.5 percent, the researchers said. More than 22 percent of the readmitted veterans went to an intensive care unit, they added.