Woo MS, Mayer C, Fischer M, Kluge S, Roedl 2, Gerloff C, Czorlich P, Thomalla G, Schulze zur Wiesch J, Schweingruber N.

Background: Unpredictable vegetative deteriorations made the treatment of patients with acute COVID-19 on intensive care unit particularly challenging during the first waves of the pandemic. Clinical correlates of dysautonomia and their impact on the disease course in critically ill COVID-19 patients are unknown. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed data collected during a single-center observational study (March 2020-November 2021) which was performed at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, a large tertiary medical center in Germany. All patients admitted to ICU due to acute COVID-19 disease during the study period were included (n = 361). Heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure variability (BPV) per day were used as clinical surrogates of dysautonomia and compared between survivors and non-survivors at different time points after admission. Intraindividual correlation of vital signs with laboratory parameters were calculated and corrected for age, sex and disease severity. Results: Patients who deceased in ICU had a longer stay (median days ± IQR, survivors 11.0 ± 27.3, non-survivors 14.1 ± 18.7, P = 0.85), in contrast time spent under invasive ventilation was not significantly different (median hours ± IQR, survivors 322 ± 782, non-survivors 286 ± 434, P = 0.29). Reduced HRV and BPV predicted lethal outcome in patients staying on ICU longer than 10 days after adjustment for age, sex, and disease severity. Accordingly, HRV was significantly less correlated with inflammatory markers (e.g. CRP and Procalcitonin) and blood carbon dioxide in non-survivors in comparison to survivors indicating uncoupling between autonomic function and inflammation in non-survivors. Conclusions: Our study suggests autonomic dysfunction as a contributor to mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients during the first waves of the pandemic. Serving as a surrogate for disease progression, these findings could contribute to the clinical management of COVID-19 patients admitted to the ICU. Furthermore, the suggested measure of dysautonomia and correlation with other laboratory parameters is non-invasive, simple, and cost-effective and should be evaluated as an additional outcome parameter in septic patients treated in the ICU in the future.

Neurol Res Pract. 2023 May 4;5(1):17

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