Prevalence of Gastrointestinal Symptoms, Hepatic Dysfunction, and Outcomes in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19 Infection: An Early Experience

Link to article at PubMed

Cureus. 2022 Feb 12;14(2):e22152. doi: 10.7759/cureus.22152. eCollection 2022 Feb.


Background and objective Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first reported in China two years ago as primarily a lung infection associated with cough and fever. It spread rapidly across the world and was declared a pandemic in early 2020, with 131 million people infected and 2.85 million deaths worldwide. To date, approximately 550,000 deaths have occurred due to COVID-19 in the United States and the numbers continue to rise. The extrapulmonary manifestations of this disease such as acute kidney injury (AKI), cardiovascular events, and gastrointestinal (GI) indications were not emphasized initially. However, subsequent studies from the United States and Canada have noted GI involvement in this disease in a large number of cases. Our group, taking care of these patients during the early phase of the pandemic in 2020, observed the frequent presentations of GI symptoms such as diarrhea and hepatic dysfunction and this study examines the same. Methods We undertook a retrospective study of 184 consecutive adult patients who were hospitalized at our center with confirmed COVID-19 infection, with a view to further elucidate the GI and hepatic involvement during the early breakout (March 17-May 17, 2020) of this illness. Results Major comorbidities associated with this illness in our cohort of patients included hypertension (HTN, 66%), diabetes mellitus (DM, 44%), obesity (41%), and chronic kidney disease (CKD, 17%). The most common GI manifestation was diarrhea (25%) and, interestingly, more than two-thirds of the patients had at least one liver function abnormality. The most common liver function abnormality was elevated serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Elevated AST was significantly correlated (p<0.05) with inflammatory markers such as D-dimer, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and ferritin, as well as AKI by bi-variate analysis. Salient observations from our study include higher mortality, frequent AKI, and cardiovascular events in male patients (p<0.05). The liver injury in our cohort was suspected to be multifactorial, involving excessive cytokine release, viral infiltration of the hepatocytes, and cholangiocytes playing a role in transaminitis. The mean (±SD) duration of hospital stay was 13.5 ±15 days with 33% admissions to the ICU. The overall mortality was around 27%, with no significant difference between African Americans and Caucasians. However, patients admitted to the ICU had a very high mortality rate (54%) compared to those admitted to intermediate care (IMC)/acute care who had less severity of illness and associated pulmonary complications. Conclusions This study evaluates the presence of comorbidities such as DM, HTN, and obesity in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at a community hospital in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Statistical analysis of the data obtained for this cohort revealed a high frequency of GI symptoms, with diarrhea as the predominant common initial manifestation of the disease. Serum AST elevations were common and correlated with inflammatory markers and AKI. Male gender was also significantly associated with the development of AKI, higher frequency of cardiovascular events, and increased mortality. Overall mortality was noted to be 27%, with higher mortality in patients admitted to the ICU (54%) as compared to the IMC/floor (13%). These observations should spur future investigations into the role of these comorbidities, development of diarrhea, and hepatic dysfunction in COVID-19.

PMID:35308711 | PMC:PMC8919765 | DOI:10.7759/cureus.22152

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