Differences in the clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients who died in hospital during different phases of the pandemic: national data from Italy

The Italian National Institute of Health COVID-19 Mortality Group (*)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Epidemiological data obtained during the initial wave of the COVID-19 epidemic showed that persons dying with COVID-19 were typically older men with multiple chronic conditions. No studies have assessed if the characteristics of patients dying with COVID-19 have changed in the second phase of the epidemic, when the initial wave subsided. The aim of the present study was to compare characteristics of patients dying with COVID-19 in Italy in the first ‘peak’ phase of the epidemic and in its second phase. Methods: Medical charts of patients with COVID-19 who died while in hospital in Italy were reviewed to extract information on pre-existing comorbidities, in-hospital complications, and disease trajectories. The course of the epidemic was classified in two 3-month periods: March–May 2020 and June–August 2020. Findings: Overall, in the Italian population, 34,191 COVID-19 deaths occurred in March–May 2020 and 1,404 in June–August 2020. Patients dying in March–May were significantly younger (80.1 ± 10.6 vs. 82.8 ± 11.1 years, p < 0.001) and less frequently female (41.9% vs. 61.8%, p < 0.001) than those dying in June–August. The medical charts of 3533 patients who died with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in March–May 2020 (10.3% of all deaths occurring in this period) and 203 patients who died in June–August 2020 (14.5% of all deaths occurring in this period) were analysed. Patients who died in March–May 2020, compared to those who died in June–August 2020, had significantly lower rates of multiple comorbidities (3 or more comorbidities: 61.8% vs 74.5%, p = 0.001) and superinfections (15.2% vs. 52.5%, p < 0.001). Treatment patterns also substantially differed in the two study periods, with patients dying in March–May 2020 being less likely to be treated with steroids (41.7% vs. 69.3%, p < 0.001) and more likely to receive antivirals (59.3% vs. 41.4%, p < 0.001). Survival time also largely differed, with patients dying in March–May 2020 showing a shorter time from symptoms onset to death (mean interval: 15.0 vs. 46.6 days, p < 0.001). The differences observed between the two periods remained significant in a multivariate analysis. Interpretation: The clinical characteristics of patients dying with COVID-19 in Italy, their treatment and symptom-to-death survival time have significantly changed overtime. This is probably due to an improved organization and delivery of care and to a better knowledge of disease treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-199
Number of pages7
JournalAging clinical and experimental research
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Italy
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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