Characteristics of Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19 Compared to Patients with Influenza : A Single Center Experience

Infections with SARS-CoV-2 spread worldwide early in 2020. In previous winters, we had been treating patients with seasonal influenza. While creating a larger impact on the health care systems, comparisons regarding the intensive care unit (ICU) courses of both diseases are lacking. We compared patients with influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infections treated at a tertiary care facility offering treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and being a high-volume facility for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Patients with COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic (n = 64) were compared to 64 patients with severe influenza from 2016 to 2020 at our ICU. All patients were treated using a standardized protocol. ECMO was used in cases of severe ARDS. Both groups had similar comorbidities. Time in ICU and mortality were not significantly different, yet mortality with ECMO was high amongst COVID-19 patients with approximately two-thirds not surviving. This is in contrast to a mortality of less than 40% in influenza patients with ECMO. Mortality was higher than estimated by SAPSII score on admission in both groups. Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to be male and non-smokers than those with influenza. The outcomes for patients with severe disease were similar. The study helps to understand similarities and differences between patients treated for severe influenza infections and COVID-19.


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