Cureus. 2023 Jan 20;15(1):e33991. doi: 10.7759/cureus.33991. eCollection 2023 Jan.
Background Although the incidence of post-COVID-19 organizing pneumonia (OP) is low, the mortality and morbidity in select patients appear to be high. Anticipating specific populations who may be at higher risk and initiating treatment earlier could reduce mortality. Research question Does treatment with high dose, standard dose, or no glucocorticoids for COVID-19 infection impact the incidence and clinical outcome in COVID-19-induced OP? Study design and methods This was a single-center, retrospective, observational cohort study conducted from 03/01/2020 to 06/30/2021 in hospitalized patients over the age of 18 with confirmed COVID-19 infection and computed tomography (CT) scan evidence of OP. Institutional review board (IRB) approval was obtained from the institution (STUDY00002241). Patients' demographics and oxygen requirements at the time of diagnosis, at the time of discharge, and at one, three, six, 10, and 12 months post-discharge were obtained. The dose, duration, and choice of glucocorticoid therapy were recorded for each subject, as well as oxygen requirements during hospitalization. Despite radiological evidence of OP, patients on minimal supplemental oxygen requirements did not receive high-dose or long-duration glucocorticoid therapy. Results A total of 881 patients were admitted with COVID-19, of which 42 met the study criteria. Three patients underwent a lung biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of organizing pneumonia. All other patients were diagnosed based on CT imaging and clinical presentation. Of the patients, 17% did not receive any steroid treatment, while 36% received dexamethasone and 43% received prednisone. The most common oxygen requirement at the time of discharge for steroid-treated patients was nasal cannula (55%) and room air (29%). The incidence of OP in this patient population was 0.05 with a mortality rate of 14%. Interpretation and relevance The incidence of post-COVID-19 OP appears to be lower than anticipated. Steroids for patients on lower supplemental oxygen requirements were discontinued although they had radiological evidence of OP. Patients who were on higher supplemental oxygen requirements at 10 days were continued on steroids regardless of imaging. The decision to continue steroids should be based on individual patient characteristics such as oxygen requirements. In the future, larger multicenter cohort studies would help understand further treatment of post-COVID-19-associated OP. Anticipating specific populations who may be at higher risk and starting treatment earlier could help reduce mortality.