Respiration. 2023 Sep 5:1-10. doi: 10.1159/000533522. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Early intubation versus use of conventional or high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy (COT/HFNC), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and non-invasive ventilation (NIV) has been debated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our centre followed a stepwise approach, in concordance with German national guidelines, escalating non-invasive modalities prior to invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), rather than early or late intubation.
OBJECTIVES: The aims of the study were to investigate the real-life usage of these modalities and analyse patient characteristics and survival.
METHOD: A retrospective monocentric observation was conducted of all consecutive COVID-19 hospital admissions between March 2020 and December 2021 at a university-affiliated pulmonary centre in Germany. Anthropometric data, therapy, and survival status were descriptively analysed.
RESULTS: From 1,052 COVID-19-related admissions, 835 patients were included (54% male, median 58 years). Maximum therapy was as follows: 34% (n = 284) no therapy, 40% (n = 337) COT, 3% (n = 22) HFNC, 9% (n = 73) CPAP, 7% (n = 56) NIV, 4% (n = 34) IMV, and 3% (n = 29) ECMO. Of 551 patients treated with at least COT, 12.3% required intubation. Overall, 183 patients required intensive unit care, and 106 (13%) died. Of the 68 patients who received IMV/ECMO, 48 died (74%). The strategy for non-pharmacological therapy was individual but remained consistent throughout the studied period.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides valuable insight into COVID-19 care in Germany and shows how the majority of patients could be treated with the maximum treatment required according to disease severity following the national algorithm. Escalation of therapy modality is interlinked with disease severity and thus associated with mortality.