Death rates among people who end up in intensive care with Covid-19 have improved dramatically since the start of the pandemic thanks to advances in treatment, according to new research.
The proportion of those most affected by the disease who die from it has fallen from 60% when it first appeared early last year to 36% in October, the Global Trends Study shows.
That drop continues a positive trend that caused the mortality rate of almost 60% observed at the end of March to decrease to 42% at the end of May, it reports.
The findings, based on 52 studies worldwide involving 43,128 patients, have been published in the medical journal Anesthesia.
The five authors, all NHS specialists in intensive care or anesthetics, were led by Professor Tim Cook, a highly respected authority on intensive care who works at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
However, the doctors who have carried out the research warn that the enormous progress seen in mortality from Covid over the last year may have stalled.
The emergence of new coronavirus variants that have left more people seriously ill could increase death rates, they say. Similarly, the vaccination program being developed around the world could reduce the number of patients who need potentially vital treatment in intensive care.
In this, their second meta-analysis of global trends in the number of deaths despite critical care, they say: “Overall, mortality in all studies is lower at the end of September (35.5%) than when we reported this at the end of May (41.6%) ”.
The improvement is due to the increased use of steroids such as dexamethasone and changes in the way that Covid patients receive oxygen therapy and fluids and how the risk of blood clots is managed.
However, they add: “The decrease in mortality in the ICU due to Covid-19 has been reduced or stagnated since May 2020.”
Mortality in most regions of the world is now 30% to 40%, they found. For example, the average in Europe is 33.4% and in North America 40%. However, mortality in the state of Victoria in Australia, which includes Melbourne, is unusually low at 11%. And it’s unusually high, 62%, in the Middle East, according to a study of four countries there.
The data they examined included figures from England, Wales and Northern Ireland collected and published each week of the pandemic by the National Intensive Care Audit and Research Center (ICNARC). Is more recent report, released last Friday, shows that mortality was around 45% when the pandemic hit, but is now just shy of 40%.
Dr. James Doidge, ICNARC senior statistician, said: “Observed death rates [in the three countries] were at their lowest during the summer of 2020, [when they were] 27% for patients admitted to intensive care in June or July.
“Although the observed mortality rates have increased again in recent months, they are still lower than what could be predicted based on the characteristics of the patients admitted. For example, 38% for patients [who were] seriously ill in December vs. 43% -46% expected. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism