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Most critically ill coronavirus patients survive and recover with standard treatment: study

Sticking to basics

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

A majority of COVID-19 patients who suffer critical illness from the novel coronavirus survive when they receive standard treatment for the respiratory issues the virus causes, according to a recent study of Boston patients.

A team of medical experts led by Dr. C. Corey Hardin, a professor of medicine as Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at the records of 66 critically ill patients whose condition became so severe that they needed ventilator support.

The most severe COVID-19 cases result in a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a life-threatening lung condition. Because that condition has been known and studied for decades, Hardin said, there are some well-known effective treatments that doctors should focus on.

From the website of Massachusetts General:

Importantly, the death rate among critically ill patients with COVID-19 treated this way—16.7%—was not nearly as high as has been reported by other hospitals. Also, over a median follow-up of 34 days, 75.8% of patients who were on ventilators were discharged from the intensive care unit. "Based on this, we recommend that clinicians provide evidence-based ARDS treatments to patients with respiratory failure due to COVID-19 and await standardized clinical trials before contemplating novel therapies," said co–lead author Jehan Alladina, MD, an Instructor in Medicine at Mass General.

The study concluded that while there could be value in some of the less-proven treatments that are being studied, and which have anecdotally shown success, such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, physicians would be wise to rely on proven treatments for ARDS when dealing with critical patients first before trying other things.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals around the world have shared anecdotal experiences to help inform the care of affected patients, but such anecdotes do not always reveal the best treatment strategies, and they can even lead to harm," wrote Brian Burns for the Mass General website.

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