Clinical course of COVID-19 patients needing supplemental oxygen outside the intensive care unit

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 26;11(1):2256. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81444-9.


Patients suffering from CVOID-19 mostly experience a benign course of the disease. Approximately 14% of SARS-CoV2 infected patients are admitted to a hospital. Cohorts exhibiting severe lung failure in the form of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have been well characterized. Patients without ARDS but in need of supplementary oxygen have received much less attention. This study describes the diagnosis, symptoms, treatment and outcomes of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 needing oxygen support during their stay on regular ward. All 133 patients admitted to the RWTH Aachen university hospital with the diagnosis of COVID-19 were included in an observational registry. Clinical data sets were extracted from the hospital information system. This analysis includes all 57 patients requiring supplemental oxygen not admitted to the ICU. 57 patients needing supplemental oxygen and being treated outside the ICU were analyzed. Patients exhibited the typical set of symptoms for COVID-19. Of note, hypoxic patients mostly did not suffer from clinically relevant dyspnea despite oxygen saturations below 92%. Patients had fever for 7 [2-11] days and needed supplemental oxygen for 8 [5-13] days resulting in an overall hospitalization time of 12 [7-20] days. In addition, patients had persisting systemic inflammation with CRP levels remaining elevated until discharge or death. This description of COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen therapy should be taken into account when planning treatment capacity. Patients on oxygen need long-term inpatient care.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • Dyspnea / therapy
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / therapy
  • Inflammation
  • Inpatients
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • RNA, Viral
  • Registries
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / therapy*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / virology*


  • RNA, Viral
  • Oxygen