What can we Learn from Patients who Died from Covid-19 Following Escalation to a Respiratory High Dependency Unit for Trial of Non-Invasive Respiratory Support?
Evans S., Elder P., Shoulder R., Sundaralingam A., Kewalramani N., Porter B., Flight W., Hardinge M., Rahman NM., Miller M.
Background: Covid-19 infection is associated with significant risk of death, particularly in older, comorbid patients. Emerging evidence supports use of non-invasive respiratory support (CPAP and high-flow nasal oxygen [HFNO]) in this context, but little is known about its use in patients receiving end-of-life care. Methods: This was a retrospective study of 33 patients who died of Covid-19 on the Respiratory High Dependency Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford between 28/03/20 and 20/05/20. Data was sourced via retrospective review of electronic patient records and drug charts. Results: Patients dying from Covid-19 on the Respiratory HDU were comorbid with median Charlson Comorbidity Index 5 (IQR 4-6); median age 78 (IQR 72-85). Respiratory support was trialled in all but one case with CPAP being the most common form of first line respiratory support (84.8%) however, was only tolerated in 44.8% of patients. Median time to death was 10.7 days from symptom onset (IQR 7.5-14.6) and 4.9 days from hospital admission (IQR 3.1-8.3). 48.5% of patients remained on respiratory support at the time of death. Conclusions: End-of-life care for patients with Covid-19 remains a challenge. Patients tend to be frail and comorbid with a rapid disease trajectory. Non-Invasive Respiratory Support may play a key role in symptom management in select patients, however, further work is needed in order to identify patients who will most benefit from Respiratory Support and those for whom withdrawal may prevent unnecessary distress at the end of life or potential prolongation of suffering.