Increased 30-day mortality in very old ICU patients with COVID-19 compared to patients with respiratory failure without COVID-19

Intensive Care Med. 2022 Apr;48(4):435-447. doi: 10.1007/s00134-022-06642-z. Epub 2022 Feb 26.


Purpose: The number of patients ≥ 80 years admitted into critical care is increasing. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) added another challenge for clinical decisions for both admission and limitation of life-sustaining treatments (LLST). We aimed to compare the characteristics and mortality of very old critically ill patients with or without COVID-19 with a focus on LLST.

Methods: Patients 80 years or older with acute respiratory failure were recruited from the VIP2 and COVIP studies. Baseline patient characteristics, interventions in intensive care unit (ICU) and outcomes (30-day survival) were recorded. COVID patients were matched to non-COVID patients based on the following factors: age (± 2 years), Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score (± 2 points), clinical frailty scale (± 1 point), gender and region on a 1:2 ratio. Specific ICU procedures and LLST were compared between the cohorts by means of cumulative incidence curves taking into account the competing risk of discharge and death.

Results: 693 COVID patients were compared to 1393 non-COVID patients. COVID patients were younger, less frail, less severely ill with lower SOFA score, but were treated more often with invasive mechanical ventilation (MV) and had a lower 30-day survival. 404 COVID patients could be matched to 666 non-COVID patients. For COVID patients, withholding and withdrawing of LST were more frequent than for non-COVID and the 30-day survival was almost half compared to non-COVID patients.

Conclusion: Very old COVID patients have a different trajectory than non-COVID patients. Whether this finding is due to a decision policy with more active treatment limitation or to an inherent higher risk of death due to COVID-19 is unclear.

Trial registration: NCT03370692 NCT04321265.

Keywords: COVID; Intensive care; Mortality; Old patients; Treatment limitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Critical Care
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Respiratory Insufficiency* / therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2

Associated data