Using sequence clustering to identify clinically relevant subphenotypes in patients with COVID-19 admitted to the intensive care unit

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022 Jan 29;29(3):489-499. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocab252.


Objective: The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has heterogenous clinical courses, indicating that there might be distinct subphenotypes in critically ill patients. Although prior research has identified these subphenotypes, the temporal pattern of multiple clinical features has not been considered in cluster models. We aimed to identify temporal subphenotypes in critically ill patients with COVID-19 using a novel sequence cluster analysis and associate them with clinically relevant outcomes.

Materials and methods: We analyzed 1036 confirmed critically ill patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-COV-2 infection admitted to the Mount Sinai Health System in New York city. The agglomerative hierarchical clustering method was used with Levenshtein distance and Ward's minimum variance linkage.

Results: We identified four subphenotypes. Subphenotype I (N = 233 [22.5%]) included patients with rapid respirations and a rapid heartbeat but less need for invasive interventions within the first 24 hours, along with a relatively good prognosis. Subphenotype II (N = 418 [40.3%]) represented patients with the least degree of ailments, relatively low mortality, and the highest probability of discharge from the hospital. Subphenotype III (N = 259 [25.0%]) represented patients who experienced clinical deterioration during the first 24 hours of intensive care unit admission, leading to poor outcomes. Subphenotype IV (N = 126 [12.2%]) represented an acute respiratory distress syndrome trajectory with an almost universal need for mechanical ventilation.

Conclusion: We utilized the sequence cluster analysis to identify clinical subphenotypes in critically ill COVID-19 patients who had distinct temporal patterns and different clinical outcomes. This study points toward the utility of including temporal information in subphenotyping approaches.

Keywords: COVID-19; intensive care unit; sequence clustering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome*
  • SARS-CoV-2