Introduction: The role of systemic corticosteroid as a therapeutic agent for patients with COVID-19 pneumonia is controversial.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of corticosteroids in non-intensive care unit (ICU) patients with COVID-19 pneumonia complicated by acute hypoxemic respiratory failure (AHRF).
Methods: This was a single-center retrospective cohort study, from 16th March, 2020 to 30th April, 2020; final follow-up on 10th May, 2020. 265 patients consecutively admitted to the non-ICU wards with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia were screened for inclusion. 205 patients who developed AHRF (SpO2/FiO2 ≤ 440 or PaO2/FiO2 ≤ 300) were only included in the final study. Direct admission to the Intensive care unit (ICU), patients developing composite primary outcome within 24 hours of admission, and patients who never became hypoxic during their stay in the hospital were excluded. Patients were divided into two cohorts based on corticosteroid. The primary outcome was a composite of ICU transfer, intubation, or in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes were ICU transfer, intubation, in-hospital mortality, discharge, length of stay, and daily trend of SpO2/FiO2 (SF) ratio from the index date. Cox-proportional hazard regression was implemented to analyze the time to event outcomes.
Result: Among 205 patients, 60 (29.27%) were treated with corticosteroid. The mean age was ~57 years, and ~75% were men. Thirteen patients (22.41%) developed a primary composite outcome in the corticosteroid cohort vs. 54 (37.5%) patients in the non-corticosteroid cohort (P = 0.039). The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for the development of the composite primary outcome was 0.15 (95% CI, 0.07-0.33; P <0.001). The adjusted hazard ratio for ICU transfer was 0.16 (95% CI, 0.07 to 0.34; P < 0.001), intubation was 0.31 (95% CI, 0.14 to 0.70; P- 0.005), death was 0.53 (95% CI, 0.22 to 1.31; P- 0.172), composite of death or intubation was 0.31 (95% CI, 0.15 to 0.66; P- 0.002) and discharge was 3.65 (95% CI, 2.20 to 6.06; P<0.001). The corticosteroid cohort had increasing SpO2/FiO2 over time compared to the non-corticosteroid cohort who experience decreasing SpO2/FiO2 over time.
Conclusion: Among non-ICU patients hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia complicated by AHRF, treatment with corticosteroid was associated with a significantly lower risk of the primary composite outcome of ICU transfer, intubation, or in-hospital death, composite of intubation or death and individual components of the primary outcome.