149 COVID-19 patients admitted to ICUs since pandemic hit Australia

Almost 150 patients confirmed or strongly suspected to have contracted COVID-19 have been admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) across the country since the global pandemic broke out in Australia, according to new research.

A study led by Monash University examined national data collected from over 76 participating ICUs on the number of COVID-19 patients they have admitted since 14 March, when the coronavirus first emerged in Australia.

Latest data shows there has been 149 ICU admissions, with 103 patients admitted to ICU with either confirmed or strongly suspected COVID-19, and 46 more ICU patients currently awaiting test results.

Of the almost 150 admissions, 85 people tested positive for COVID-19, including 57 males and 27 females.

Eighteen patients were strongly suspected to have COVID-19 but returned negative swabs.

A breakdown of patients admitted to ICU with COVID-19 symptoms revealed ages ranged from 39-85, with the majority of cases occurring in people aged over 60 (69%) and 41% of cases striking people aged 70-79.

According to the study, of the 85 confirmed COVID-19 patients, 12 died, 31 were discharged, three were transferred to another hospital, 20 remain in hospital ward care, and 19 are receiving ongoing care in ICUs.

The most common symptoms identified at the time of admission to hospital included fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue/malaise and diarrhoea.

Men were twice as likely to be admitted to ICU as women, and patients with comorbidities such as diabetes, chronic cardiac disease and obesity were far more likely to be admitted, the research found.

Treatments used in ICU to stabilise patients and support their recovery included antibiotics, invasive (tube) ventilation, inotropic and vasopressor medications to support blood pressure and the heart, high-flow nasal canula oxygen therapy, and neuromuscular blocking agents that turn off the body’s muscles and allow mechanical ventilation.

Data is being collected and updated weekly, with the project led by Dr Aidan Burrell and Professor Andrew Udy of Monash University’s Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Center (ANZIC‐RC).

Findings will also contribute to international collaborators at the University of Oxford, which is managing the global SPRINT-SARI database aiming to provide real-time, detailed reporting of the sickest patients admitted to ICUs with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection.

To date, state and territory health authorities have reported, 948 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 97 deaths.

“This is the first time we have data outlining the number of COVID-19 patients requiring ICU, the duration of their care, the type of treatments they’re receiving, and the number that are surviving,” said Professor Udy, Co-Deputy Director of ANZIC-RC and an intensive care clinician and researcher at The Alfred ICU.

“From a broad national perspective, this data gives us important insights into the type of therapy, care, and medical intervention our sickest COVID-19 patients need. It means we can inform clinicians and improve the therapies provided, as well as appraise resourcing, particularly if we experience a sudden spike in cases over the coming months.”

Professor Udy said the ability of Australia’s health system to cope with a pandemic could be measured in part by the ability of ICUs to respond to the sickest patients

“We’ve never seen this infectious disease before and as a consequence, a lot of the traditional ways that we manage a patient are being challenged. There are complications that can arise as a consequence of the disease, particularly in younger patients. This helps us to individualise therapy, and nuance the care that’s provided to ensure the best possible patient outcomes.”

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