A new study, published this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), confirms the many complications of COVID-19 including cardiovascular, kidney, and lung complications.
Data taken from over 70,000 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020 was analyzed to corroborate findings of previous studies that have suggested that COVID-19 infection is associated with pneumonia, respiratory failure, kidney failure, sepsis or systemic inflammation, and other serious health issues.
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Assessing the full range of COVID-19 complications
Dr. William Murk, of Jacobs School of Medicine & Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, New York, and co-author of the new paper, highlights the importance of fully investigating how COVID-19 impacts the body, “Understanding the full range of associated conditions can aid in prognosis, guide treatment decisions and better inform patients as to their actual risks for the variety of COVID-19 complications reported in the literature and media”.
Along with co-authors from Aetion, Inc., HealthVerity, Inc. and the University of Toronto, Murk designed a large-scale study to assess the full range of complications associated with COVID-19 in order to better equip the medical community to improve treatment and prognosis.
The team was permitted access to a United States health database where they obtained the de-identified outpatient and inpatient medical claims of 70,288 patients who had a health visit due to COVID-19. The data analyzed was taken from visits made from March 1st to April 30th, 2020.
The data showed that over half of these patients were admitted into hospital, and roughly 5% of patients were admitted into an intensive care unit. Just over half of the sample were female (55.8%), and the median age of the group was 65 years.
The researchers included all diagnostic codes in their analysis which highlighted those that increased in incidences following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that kidney failure, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and sepsis or systemic inflammation were the most common health complications associated with COVID-19. These findings confirmed what has been found in previous studies.
For each of these health issues, the team was able to calculate the absolute risk of someone with COVID-19 developing the complication. The absolute risk of pneumonia was 27.6%, for respiratory failure it was 22.6%, for kidney failure it was 11.8%, and for sepsis or systemic inflammation it was 10.4%.
In addition, researchers identified a wide range of other cardiovascular and lung conditions such as blood clotting disorders, heart inflammation, and collapsed lung that were related to COVID-19 infection. However, these complications were seen in much lower rates than pneumonia, respiratory failure, kidney failure, and sepsis or systemic inflammation.
Finally, while other studies have suggested that COVID-19 increases a person’s likeliness of suffering a stroke, the findings of the current study did not support this. Further research is needed to establish this connection.
Over the course of the pandemic, thousands to tens of thousands of people have been newly admitted to hospital each week in the US due to COVID-19 infections. Of these admissions, a significant portion are taken into an intensive care unit. The findings of the current study could be invaluable in guiding treatment strategies for those with more severe cases of COVID-19.
The data may also be useful in highlighting the more common complications to look out for, potentially resulting in early diagnosis and an improved prognosis. The paper’s authors summarize, “This study provides estimates of absolute risk and relative odds for all identified diagnoses related to COVID- 19, which are needed to help providers, patients and policy-makers understand the likelihood of complications”.
Murk, W., Gierada, M., Fralick, M., Weckstein, A., Klesh, R., & Rassen, J.A. (2020). CMAJ. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.201686; early-released December 8, 2020