Red cell distribution width (RDW): a prognostic indicator of severe COVID-19

Ann Transl Med. 2020 Oct;8(19):1230. doi: 10.21037/atm-20-6090.


Background: The global mortality rate for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is 3.68%, but the mortality rate for critically ill patients is as high as 50%. Therefore, the exploration of prognostic predictors for patients with COVID-19 is vital for prompt clinical intervention. Our study aims to explore the predictive value of hematological parameters in the prognosis of patients with severe COVID-19.

Methods: Ninety-eight patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 at Jingzhou Central Hospital and Central Hospital of Wuhan, Hubei Province, were included in this study.

Results: The median age of the patients was 59 [28-80] years; the median age of patients with a good prognosis was 56 [28-79] years, and the median age of patients with a poor outcome was 67 [35-80] years. The patients in the poor outcome group were older than the patients in the good outcome group (P<0.05). The comparison of hematological parameters showed that lymphocyte count (Lym#), red blood cells (RBCs), hemoglobin (HGB), hematocrit (HCT), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), and mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) were significantly lower in the poor outcome group than in the good outcome group (P<0.05). Further, the red cell volume distribution width-CV (RDW-CV) and red cell volume distribution width-SD (RDW-SD) were significantly higher in the poor outcome group than in the good outcome group (P<0.0001). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves showed RDW-SD, with an area under the ROC curve (AUC) of 0.870 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.796-0.943], was the most significant single parameter for predicting the prognosis of severe patients. When the cut-off value was 42.15, the sensitivity and specificity of RDW-SD for predicting the prognosis of severe patients were 73.1% and 80.2%, respectively. Reticulocyte (RET) channel results showed the RET level was significantly higher in critical patients than in moderate patients and severe patients (P<0.05), which may be one cause of the elevated RDW in patients with a poor outcome.

Conclusions: In this study, the hematological parameters of COVID-19 patients were statistically analyzed. RDW was found to be a prognostic predictor for patients with severe COVID-19, and the increase in RET may contribute to elevated RDW.

Keywords: COVID-19; Red cell distribution width (RDW); linear discriminant analysis (LDA); novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2); prognostic indicator; receiver operating characteristic (ROC).