Public health

Rheumatic disease elevates risk of COVID respiratory complications 

Patients with rheumatic diseases may be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 respiratory complications, a new study suggests. 

The matched cohort study of patients with COVID-19 infection found that patients with rheumatic diseases had similar odds of hospitalisation and mortality but a threefold higher odds of requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation compared to patients without rheumatic disease.

“Our estimates regarding intensive care admission/mechanical ventilation and mortality are likely conservative since more patients with rheumatic disease remain hospitalised at the time of submission compared with comparators,” the study authors from Boston, Massachusetts, noted in their paper published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

The factors underlying the association were unclear, but could reflect differences in exposure to immunosuppressive medications, which were taken by 39 of the 52 patients with rheumatic diseases in the study cohort . 

“Additional studies are needed with larger sample sizes to understand whether certain immunosuppressive medications predispose patients with rheumatic disease to respiratory failure,” they said. 

“Our findings are important benchmarks in the care of patients with rheumatic disease as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold and highlight the need for close monitoring when patients with rheumatic disease are diagnosed with COVID-19” they concluded.

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