High risk of death or readmission after COVID-19 hospitalization

An intensive care unit in Connecticut
Scientists recently followed patients after hospitalization with COVID-19. Allison Dinner/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • A new study finds that people hospitalized with COVID-19 have an increased risk of death or readmission afterward.
  • The risk of death post-hospitalization is highest for individuals with preexisting dementia.
  • Also, the risk of death from any cause is 4–5 times higher after release from the hospital for people with COVID-19, compared with the general population.
  • People hospitalized with other diseases are about half as likely to die of any cause as those who received treatment for COVID-19.

A new study finds that being released from the hospital after receiving treatment for COVID-19 does not guarantee survival.

People who have survived at least 1 week after release from the hospital for treatment of COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to die or return to the hospital over the following several months than the general population.

Dr. Krishnan Bhaskaran, lead author of the present study and professor of statistical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, told Medical News Today:

“This won’t be entirely due to lasting effects of the virus — we know that COVID-19 picks on more vulnerable people in the first place, plus there are generic adverse consequences of being seriously ill and hospitalized. Hence, the risks were more similar when we compared [them with those for] hospitalized flu patients.”

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The study findings were nonetheless striking, said Dr. Bhaskaran.

“Two things which stood out in the COVID-19 patients were the high risk of rehospitalization or death attributed to the COVID-19 disease itself, and the high risk of dying from dementia, especially in those with preexisting dementia disease,” he explained.

The study appears in PLOS Medicine.

Comparing risks

Using the National Health Service (NHS) England’s OpenSAFELY data, Dr. Bhaskaran and his colleagues compared health data from 24,673 patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19, a demographically matched general-population control group of 123,362 individuals, and 16,058 people who had been hospitalized for influenza.

The researchers tracked the individuals’ health for up to 315 days after hospitalization. During this period, the study authors write,

“COVID-19 patients had higher risks of all-cause mortality, readmission or death due to the initial infection, and dementia death, highlighting the importance of post-discharge monitoring.”

Post-discharge patients who had COVID-19 were 4–5 times more likely to die from any cause than the members of the control group. Their risk was almost double that of people previously hospitalized for influenza.

Another recent study from Estonia, which appears as a preprint, reaches similar conclusions. Rather than focusing on hospitalizations, the authors followed 66,287 people for 12 months following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. They conclude:

“People infected with [SARS-CoV-2] had more than three times the risk of dying over the following year compared with those who remained uninfected.”

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