Interhospital Transfer Outcomes for Critically Ill Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 Requiring Mechanical Ventilation

Crit Care Explor. 2021 Oct 18;3(10):e0559. doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000559. eCollection 2021 Oct.


Studying interhospital transfer of critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia in the spring 2020 surge may help inform future pandemic management.

Objectives: To compare outcomes for mechanically ventilated patients with coronavirus disease 2019 transferred to a tertiary referral center with increased surge capacity with patients admitted from the emergency department.

Design setting participants: Observational cohort study of single center urban academic medical center ICUs. All patients admitted and discharged with coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia who received invasive ventilation between March 17, 2020, and October 14, 2020.

Main outcome and measures: Demographic and clinical variables were obtained from the electronic medical record. Patients were classified as emergency department admits or interhospital transfers. Regression models tested the association between transfer status and survival, adjusting for demographics and presentation severity.

Results: In total, 298 patients with coronavirus disease 2019 pneumonia were admitted to the ICU and received mechanical ventilation. Of these, 117 were transferred from another facility and 181 were admitted through the emergency department. Patients were primarily male (64%) and Black (38%) or Hispanic (45%). Transfer patients differed from emergency department admits in having English as a preferred language (71% vs 56%; p = 0.008) and younger age (median 57 vs 61 yr; p < 0.001). There were no differences in race/ethnicity or primary payor. Transfers were more likely to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (12% vs 3%; p = 0.004). Overall, 50 (43%) transferred patients and 78 (43%) emergency department admits died prior to discharge. There was no significant difference in hospital mortality or days from intubation to discharge between the two groups.

Conclusions and relevance: In a single-center retrospective cohort, no significant differences in hospital mortality or length of stay between interhospital transfers and emergency department admits were found. While more study is needed, this suggests that interhospital transfer of critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 can be done safely and effectively.

Keywords: coronavirus disease 2019; intensive care unit; interhospital transfer; mechanical ventilation; mortality; outcomes.