In weighted analyses, patients who survived their hospitalizations were balanced on age, sex, week of discharge, intensive care unit admission, and length of hospitalization using coarsened exact matching. Hazard ratios for readmission or death were estimated using piecewise Cox proportional hazards regression.
A, Included 1366 patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and 1799 with pneumonia. The hazard ratios for 0 to 10 days were 1.43 (95% CI, 1.09-1.87); for 11 to 20 days, 0.51 (95% CI, 0.36-0.74); for 21 to 40 days, 0.63 (95% CI, 0.45-0.88); and for 41 to 60 days, 0.57 (95% CI, 0.38-0.85).
B, Included 1430 patients with COVID-19 and 3505 with heart failure. The hazard ratios for 0 to 10 days were 1.62 (95% CI, 1.31-2.01); for 11 to 20 days, 0.55 (95% CI, 0.41-0.74); for 21 to 40 days, 0.43 (95% CI, 0.33-0.56); and for 41 to 60 days, 0.39 (95% CI, 0.28-0.55).
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Donnelly JP, Wang XQ, Iwashyna TJ, Prescott HC. Readmission and Death After Initial Hospital Discharge Among Patients With COVID-19 in a Large Multihospital System. JAMA. Published online December 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21465
Although more patients are surviving severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), there are limited data on outcomes after initial hospitalization. We therefore measured the rate of readmission, reasons for readmission, and rate of death after hospital discharge among patients with COVID-19 in the nationwide Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.
We identified index hospitalizations for COVID-19 among veterans at 132 VA hospitals (admitted March 1–June 1, 2020; discharged March 1–July 1, 2020) in the VA’s Corporate Data Warehouse.1 Definitions included definite hospitalizations for COVID-19, in which patients were diagnosed during hospitalization, and probable hospitalizations, in which patients were diagnosed during the 14 days preceding or 7 days following hospitalization.2,3
We also identified comparison cohorts of hospitalizations for non-COVID pneumonia and heart failure during the same time frame, using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Clinical Classification Software Refined diagnosis groupings.4 We extracted demographics, intensive care unit (ICU) use, length of hospitalization, receipt of invasive mechanical ventilation, and receipt of vasopressors.5 We applied weights from coarsened exact matching to balance survivors of COVID-19 and control hospitalizations on age, sex, week of discharge, length of hospitalization, and ICU use.6
We measured readmission and death to 60 days after discharge among survivors of COVID-19 hospitalizations, determined the most common readmission diagnoses, and measured use of ICU, mechanical ventilation, and vasopressors during readmission.1 We compared characteristics of COVID-19 survivors who experienced vs did not experience 60-day readmission or death using Pearson χ2 and Wilcoxon rank sum tests. We compared rates of outcomes between matched survivors of COVID-19 and control hospitalizations using Rao-Scott–corrected χ2 tests. Statistical tests were 2-tailed, with P < .05 considered significant. We generated Kaplan-Meier curves for readmission or death to 60 days after the initial hospital discharge. We also estimated hazard ratios and 95% CIs for 0 to 10, 10 to 20, 20 to 40, and 40 to 60 days after discharge using piecewise Cox proportional hazards regression. Analyses were performed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc) and Stata MP version 15.1 (StataCorp). The study was deemed exempt by the Ann Arbor VA institutional review board.
There were 2179 index hospitalizations for COVID-19, of which 678 patients (31.1%) were treated in an ICU, 279 (12.8%) were mechanically ventilated, 307 (14.1%) received vasopressors, and 1775 (81.5%) survived to discharge.
Within 60 days of discharge, 354 patients (19.9%) who survived COVID-19 hospitalization were readmitted, 162 (9.1%) died, and 479 (27.0%) were readmitted or died. Survivors with 60-day readmission or death were older but otherwise similar to survivors without readmission or death (Table). Of those readmitted, the most common readmission diagnoses were COVID-19 (30.2%), sepsis (8.5%), pneumonia (3.1%), and heart failure (3.1%). During readmission, 22.6% were treated in intensive care, 7.1% were mechanically ventilated, and 7.9% received vasopressors. Index admissions totaled 27 496 hospital days, whereas readmissions after COVID-19 resulted in 3728 additional hospitalization days.
Of the index hospitalizations, 2156 patients had pneumonia and 4269 had heart failure, of whom 97.8% and 98.3% survived to discharge, respectively. After excluding patients who died during hospitalization or could not be matched, 1799 with pneumonia and 3505 with heart failure who survived were included in the weighted comparisons with patients with COVID-19. COVID-19 survivors had lower rates of 60-day readmission or death than matched survivors of pneumonia (26.1% vs 31.7%; P = .006) and heart failure (27.0% vs 37.0%; P < .001). However, COVID-19 survivors had higher rates of readmission or death within the first 10 days after discharge than matched survivors of pneumonia (13.4% vs 9.7%; P = .01) and heart failure (13.9% vs 8.8%; P < .001) (Figure).
In this national cohort of VA patients, 27% of survivors of COVID-19 hospitalization were readmitted or died by 60 days after discharge, and this rate was lower than matched survivors of pneumonia or heart failure. However, rates of readmission or death were higher than pneumonia or heart failure during the first 10 days after discharge following COVID-19 hospitalization, suggesting a period of heightened risk of clinical deterioration. Study limitations include the inability to measure readmissions to non-VA hospitals and an older, male-predominant study population, who may be at higher risk of severe manifestations of COVID-19. Public health surveillance or clinical trials focused exclusively on inpatient mortality may substantially underestimate burdens of COVID-19.
Corresponding Author: John P. Donnelly, PhD, Department of Learning Health Sciences, University of Michigan, 2800 Plymouth Rd, NCRC Bldg 14, #G100, G014-130, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for Publication: October 13, 2020.
Published Online: December 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21465
Correction: This article was corrected online on December 30, 2020, to adjust the numbers and percentages of women as reported in the Table.
Author Contributions: Drs Donnelly and Prescott had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: Donnelly, Prescott.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
Drafting of the manuscript: Donnelly.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Wang, Iwashyna, Prescott.
Statistical analysis: Donnelly, Wang.
Obtained funding: Prescott.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Prescott.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Donnelly reported receiving grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and personal fees from the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Dr Iwashyna reported receiving grants from VA Health Services Research and Development. Dr Prescott reported receiving grants from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Department of Veterans Affairs. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: Drs Donnelly and Iwashyna are supported by grant K12-HL138039 from the NHLBI. Dr Prescott is supported by grant R01-HS026725 from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This work was supported by grant IIR 17-045 from the VA Health Services Research and Development (Dr Iwashyna). This material is the result of work supported with resources and use of facilities at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Disclaimer: This article does not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US government.
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