Cureus. 2022 Jan 27;14(1):e21669. doi: 10.7759/cureus.21669. eCollection 2022 Jan.
Background The implications of intubation timing in COVID-19 patients remain highly debatable due to the scarcity of available evidence. Objectives Our study aims to assess the clinical characteristics and outcomes of COVID-19 patients undergoing early intubation compared to those undergoing late intubation. Methods This is a single-center retrospective study of adult COVID-19 patients admitted between March 1, 2020 and January 10, 2021. Early intubation was defined as intubation within 24 hours of a) hospital admission; b) respiratory status deterioration requiring FiO2 60% and higher; or c) moderate/severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) diagnosis. Results Among the 128 COVID-19 patients included, 66.4% required early intubation, and 33.6% required late intubation. The 28-day all-cause mortality and other outcomes of mechanical ventilation duration, hospital and ICU length of stay were equal regardless of intubation timing. Clinical characteristics, inflammatory markers, COVID-19 therapies, PaO2/FiO2 ratio, and pH were comparable for both groups. Better lung compliance was observed during early intubation than late intubation based on plateau (mean 21.3 vs. 25.5 cmH2O; P < 0.01) and peak pressure (mean 24.1 vs. 27.4 cmH2O; P = 0.04). Conclusions In critically ill COVID-19 patients, the timing of intubation was not significantly associated with poor clinical outcomes in the setting of matching clinical characteristics. More research is needed to determine which subset of patients may benefit from intubation and the predictors for optimal intubation timing.