Introduction: COVID-19 case fatality rate in hospitalized patients varies across countries and studies. Reliable estimates, specific for age, sex, and comorbidities, are needed to monitor the epidemic, to compare the outcome in different settings, and to correctly design trials for COVID-19 interventions. The aim of this study was to provide population-based survival curves of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Materials and Methods: A cohort study was conducted in three areas of Northern Italy, heavily affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection (Lombardy and Veneto Regions, and Reggio Emilia province), using a loco-regional COVID-19 surveillance system, linked to hospital discharge databases. We included all patients testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by RT-PCR on nasopharyngeal/throat swab samples who were hospitalized from 21 February to 21 April 2020. Kaplan-Meier survival estimates were calculated at 14 and 30 days for death in any setting, stratifying by age, sex, and the Charlson Index.
Results: Overall, 42,926 hospitalized COVID-19 patients were identified. Patients' median age was 69 years (IQR: 57-79), 62.6% were males, and 6.0% had a Charlson Index ≥3. Survival curves showed that 22.0% (95% CI 21.6-22.4) of patients died within 14 days and 27.6% (95% CI 27.2-28.1) within 30 days from hospitalization. Survival was higher in younger patients and in females. The negative impact of comorbidities on survival was more pronounced in younger age groups.
Conclusion: The high fatality rate observed in the study (28% at 30 days) suggests that studies should focus on death as primary endpoint during a follow-up of at least one month.