Comparison of patient characteristics and long-term mortality between transferred and non-transferred COVID-19 patients in Dutch intensive care units: A national cohort study

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2022 Oct;66(9):1107-1115. doi: 10.1111/aas.14129. Epub 2022 Aug 28.


Background: COVID-19 patients were often transferred to other intensive care units (ICUs) to prevent that ICUs would reach their maximum capacity. However, transferring ICU patients is not free of risk. We aim to compare the characteristics and outcomes of transferred versus non-transferred COVID-19 ICU patients in the Netherlands.

Methods: We included adult COVID-19 patients admitted to Dutch ICUs between March 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021. We compared the patient characteristics and outcomes of non-transferred and transferred patients and used a Directed Acyclic Graph to identify potential confounders in the relationship between transfer and mortality. We used these confounders in a Cox regression model with left truncation at the day of transfer to analyze the effect of transfers on mortality during the 180 days after ICU admission.

Results: We included 10,209 patients: 7395 non-transferred and 2814 (27.6%) transferred patients. In both groups, the median age was 64 years. Transferred patients were mostly ventilated at ICU admission (83.7% vs. 56.2%) and included a larger proportion of low-risk patients (70.3% vs. 66.5% with mortality risk <30%). After adjusting for age, APACHE IV mortality probability, BMI, mechanical ventilation, and vasoactive medication use, the hazard of mortality during the first 180 days was similar for transferred patients compared to non-transferred patients (HR [95% CI] = 0.99 [0.91-1.08]).

Conclusions: Transferred COVID-19 patients are more often mechanically ventilated and are less severely ill compared to non-transferred patients. Furthermore, transferring critically ill COVID-19 patients in the Netherlands is not associated with mortality during the first 180 days after ICU admission.

Keywords: COVID-19; intensive care unit; intrahospital transfer; mortality; severity of illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Illness
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial