Most survive hospitalization with COVID-19, odds worse for ventilation

The majority of those being hospitalized with COVID-19 are surviving, but that success is not translating to more seriously ill patients placed on ventilators, according to statistics released by the Minnesota Department of Health.  

In a sample of 1,104 hospitalized in the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area, 933 patients, or 85 percent, were discharged alive, and 171 patients, or 15 percent, died in the hospital.  

Of the 152 patients who were intubated, 81 patients - or 53 percent - have died.  

The data comes from hospital surveillance under the Centers for Disease Control Emerging Infections Program. The data also reveals that doctors are relying on alternatives to ventilation that have been successful elsewhere.  

Doctors used high flow nasal cannula to help oxygenate the blood in 19 percent of the patients in the sample.  Another 12 percent were placed on BiPAP/CPAP machines, and four patients were placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine that provides life support.  

Intubation usually involves the use of a ventilator to help the patient breathe.  Multiple studies from around the world have shown extremely poor outcomes for COVID-19 patients on ventilators, with fatality rates that range from 60 to 98 percent. 

There are currently 592 patients in Minnesota on ventilators, with a hospital capacity for three times that many.  

Minnesota health officials have said many of those who have died in long-term care have chosen to remain there, rather than go to a hospital where they might have been placed on a ventilator.  

A spokesperson for MDH said efforts are underway to conduct hospitalized surveillance statewide, and provide weekly age-specific hospitalizations rates that can be used to estimate the ‘national disease burden’ of COVID-19.

Of the 2131 hospitalizations in Minnesota to date, about half the charts have been reviewed.  Each review takes at least 30 minutes.