Mälberg J, Hadziosmanovic N, Smekal D
PLoS One 16 (9) e0257018 [2021-09-02; online 2021-09-02]
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented emergency medical services (EMS) worldwide with the difficult task of identifying patients with COVID-19 and predicting the severity of their illness. The aim of this study was to investigate whether physiological respiratory parameters in pre-hospital patients with COVID-19 differed from those without COVID-19 and if they could be used to aid EMS personnel in the prediction of illness severity. Patients with suspected COVID-19 were included by EMS personnel in Uppsala, Sweden. A portable respiratory monitor based on pneumotachography was used to sample the included patient's physiological respiratory parameters. A questionnaire with information about present symptoms and background data was completed. COVID-19 diagnoses and hospital admissions were gathered from the electronic medical record system. The physiological respiratory parameters of patients with and without COVID-19 were then analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis and logistic regression. Between May 2020 and January 2021, 95 patients were included, and their physiological respiratory parameters analyzed. Of these patients, 53 had COVID-19. Using adjusted logistic regression, the odds of having COVID-19 increased with respiratory rate (95% CI 1.000-1.118), tidal volume (95% CI 0.996-0.999) and negative inspiratory pressure (95% CI 1.017-1.152). Patients admitted to hospital had higher respiratory rates (p<0.001) and lower tidal volume (p = 0.010) compared to the patients who were not admitted. Using adjusted logistic regression, the odds of hospital admission increased with respiratory rate (95% CI 1.081-1.324), rapid shallow breathing index (95% CI 1.006-1.040) and dead space percentage of tidal volume (95% CI 1.027-1.159). Patients taking smaller, faster breaths with less pressure had higher odds of having COVID-19 in this study. Smaller, faster breaths and higher dead space percentage also increased the odds of hospital admission. Physiological respiratory parameters could be a useful tool in detecting COVID-19 and predicting hospital admissions, although more research is needed.