Nearly 1 in 10 COVID patients return after leaving emergency department

A new Penn study finds patients with low pulse oximetry readings or fever were more than three times as likely to require hospitalization after their initial discharge, as compared to other COVID patients.

Roughly 1 in 10 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 needed to return to the hospital within a week of discharge from an emergency department visit, according to data from the first three months of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philadelphia region—March, April and May 2020. Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine also found that factors like lower pulse oximetry levels and fever were some of the most telling symptoms that resulted in return trips that resulted in admission. This information, published in Academic Emergency Medicine, could prove invaluable to clinicians working to fight a disease.

Person lying on back in hospital bed receiving oxygen via a mask.

“We hope this study helps emergency clinicians have more informed conversations with patients suspected to have COVID-19,” says the study’s lead author Austin Kilaru, an emergency medicine physician at Penn Medicine. “It can be difficult to make this diagnosis and send patients home without knowing if they will get sick in the coming days. This study gives clinicians a few signposts to know how often and when patients may need to return, and what risk factors to pay attention to.”

The study looked at 1,419 patients who went to an emergency department (ED) between March 1 and May 28, 2020, were discharged, and tested positive for COVID-19 in the seven days surrounding that visit. Data showed that 4.7% of the patients returned to the hospital and were admitted within just three days for their initial ED visit, and an additional 3.9% were hospitalized within a week. In total, that meant that 8.6% of patients were coming back to the hospital after their first ED visit due to COVID-19.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.