Tag: hospitals

How One Hospital Met the COVID Surge Head-on

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Since March of 2020, the COVID pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on hospitals as large surges of intensive care unit patients overwhelmed hospitals. To meet this challenge, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) expanded ICU capacity by 93% and maintained surge conditions during the nine weeks in the first quarter of 2020.

In a pair of papers and a guest editorial published in Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, a team of nurse-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) report on almost doubling the hospital’s ICU capacity; identifying, training and redeploying staff; and developing and implementing a proning team to manage patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome during the first COVID surge.

“As COVID was sweeping through the nation, we at BIDMC were preparing for the projected influx of highly infectious, critically ill patients,” said lead author Sharon C. O’Donoghue, DNP, RN, a nurse specialist in the medical intensive care units at BIDMC. “It rapidly became apparent that a plan for the arrival of highly infectious critically ill patients as well as a strategy for adequate staffing protecting employees and assuring the public that this could be managed successfully were needed.”

After setting up a hospital incident command structure to clearly define roles, open up lines of communication and develop surge plans, BIDMC’s leadership began planning for the impending influx of COVID patients in February 2020.

BIDMC – a 673 licensed bed teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School – has nine specialty ICUs located on two campuses for a total of 77 ICU beds. Informed by an epidemic surge drill conducted at BIDMC in 2012, it was determined that the trigger to open extra ICU space would be when 70 ICU beds were occupied. When this milestone was met on March 31, 2020, departmental personnel had a 12-hour window to convert two 36-bed medical-surgical units into additional ICU space, providing an additional 72 beds.

“Because the medical-surgical environment is not designed to deliver an ICU level of care, many modifications needed to be made and the need for distancing only added to the difficulties,” said senior author Susan DeSanto-Madeya, PhD, RN, FAAN, a Beth Israel Hospital Nurses Alumna Association endowed nurse scientist. “Many of these rooms were originally designed for patient privacy and quiet, but a key safety element in critical care is patient visibility, so we modified the spaces to accommodate ICU workflow.”

Modifications included putting windows in all patient room doors, and repositioning beds and monitors so patients and screens could be easily seen without entering the room. Lines of visibility were augmented with mirrors and baby monitor systems as necessary. Care providers were given two-way radios to decrease the number of staff required to enter a room when hands-on patient care was necessary. Mobile supply carts and workstations helped streamline workflow efficiency.

Besides stockpiling and managing medical equipment including PPE, ventilators and oxygen, increasing ICU capacity also required redeploying 150 staff trained in critical care. The hospital developed a recall list for former ICU nurses, as well as medical-surgical nurses that could care for critically ill patients on teams with veteran ICU nurses.

Education and support was provided from . In-person, socially-distanced workshops were developed for each group, after which nurses were assigned to shadow an ICU nurse to reduce anxiety, practice new skills and gain confidence.

“Staff identified the shadow experience as being most beneficial in preparing them for deployment during the COVID surge,” said O’Donoghue. “Historically, BIDMC has had strong collaborative relationships with staff from different areas and these relationships proved to be vital to the success of all the care teams. The social work department played a major role in fostering teams, especially during difficult situations.”

One of the redeployment teams was the ICU proning team. Proning is known to improve oxygenation in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome is a complex intervention, takes time and is not without its potential dangers to the patient and staff alike. The coalition maximised resources and facilitated more than 160 interventions between March and May of 2020.

“Although the pandemic was an unprecedented occurrence, it has prepared us for potential future crises requiring the collaboration of multidisciplinary teams to ensure optimal outcomes in an overextended environment,” O’Donoghue said. “BIDMC’s staff rose to the challenge, and many positive lessons were learned from this difficult experience.”

“We must continue to be vigilant in our assessment of what worked and what did not work and look for ways to improve health care delivery in all our systems,” said DeSanto-Madeya, who is also an associate professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Rhode Island. “The memories from this past year and a half cannot be forgotten, and we can move forward confidently knowing we provided the best care possible despite all the hardships.”

Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Violence in the ED: A Critical Issue in Healthcare

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A study by the Mayo Clinic found that most healthcare workers experience violence in emergency departments (EDs), but they seldomly report it to anyone.

Over six months prior to being surveyed, 72% of healthcare workers and other ED staff said they had personally experienced violence (71% verbal abuse and 31% physical assault), Sarayna McGuire, MD, chief resident of Mayo Emergency Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, reported in a series of three studies at the American College of Emergency Physicians annual meeting.

Nurses and clinicians, along with security personnel, bore the brunt of the attacks: 94% of nurses and 90% of clinicians reported experiencing verbal abuse, and 54% of nurses and 36% of clinicians reported instances of physical assault.

“The whole team is impacted by workplace violence,” Dr McGuire said to MedPage Today. “Even people coming in to draw blood are being assaulted physically and verbally abused.”

Despite this prevalent violence and 58% reporting at least moderate awareness of reporting policies, 77% of all respondents said they never or rarely report violence, while only 10% said they often or always do.

A possible explanation could be that only 7% of non-security staff said they were “extremely familiar” with the procedures. And when participants were asked why ED abuse is not usually reported, the top four reasons given were:

  • No physical injury was sustained (53% of respondents)
  • “It comes with the job” (47%)
  • Staff are too busy (47%)
  • Reporting is inconvenient (41%)

The violence is not without consequences; 18% of respondents said they are considering leaving their position due to the violence, and 48% said violence has changed the way they view or interact with patients.

Men and more experienced staff reported feeling significantly better prepared compared with women. When asked which factors staff thought were most responsible for the violence, the following feature in at least 70% of responses: alcohol, illicit drugs, and significant mental illness.

A total of 86% of respondents said they felt at least moderately prepared to handle verbal abuse, while 68% said they felt prepared to handle physical assault.

“Everyone’s feeling right now that violence has increased in healthcare [during the pandemic], and our data have showed that,” Dr McGuire said. “How is this sustainable? …There is a critical issue in healthcare.”

She added that since reporting of violence is so low, true exposure to violence is probably much higher than the study found.

Study co-author Casey M. Clements, MD, PhD, also of Mayo Emergency Medicine, added that “we know this isn’t isolated to emergency departments.”

He explained that while the study encompassed the pandemic era, violence “has been a problem for some time in healthcare” – violence is a major threat to the healthcare workforce, Dr Clements said. He added that another problem is that physicians typically do not receive any training in de-escalation — “we learn this on the job.”

For the study, the researchers sent an anonymous survey to ED staff at 20 EDs. Also included were social workers, management, and security staff. Women made up 73% of the 833 respondents. Nursing staff (31%) made up the largest medical discipline, and 16% were clinicians.

Dr McGuire suggested that a centralised reporting system would help augment reporting of violence.

“We need to change the mindset that it’s anybody’s job to be assaulted at work,” Dr Clements said. “We cannot go on having our emergency department workers being abused and assaulted on a daily basis.”

Source: MedPage Today

Doctors Should Avoid Reliance on Mental Shortcuts, Researchers Advise

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The use of algorithms and analytics is widely used by professional sports, in sales forecasts, lending decisions and by car insurance providers. But doctors often remain reluctant to introduce such information when making medical decisions for patients. Often mental shortcuts, usually called decision rules or heuristics, are used.

Writing in an article published in Science, Helen Colby, an assistant professor of marketing at Indiana University, and Meng Li, associate professor of health and behavioural sciences at the University of Colorado Denver, note that it is time for many doctors to stop relying on their use of heuristics when making decisions about patient care with limited cognitive resources.

Profs Colby and Li wrote their accompanying editorial for an article in Science by Manasvini Singh, an assistant professor of health economics at the University of Massachusetts.

Using data for over 86 000 deliveries, Singh found that delivering physicians were influenced not just by the indications of the current patient but also by the outcome of their most recent previous delivery. For example, when a physician experienced a negative outcome with a vaginal delivery they were more likely to choose to deliver the next baby by caesarean section and vice versa.

“Most of the time, the heuristics do save time and resources and they produce pretty good outcomes. But in some situations, pretty good is not good enough,” Colby said. “When lives are on the line, any improvement in decision making can have life-saving consequences.”

Colby and Li highlight that a “win-stay-lose-shift” heuristic has been identified in other contexts as a learning strategy, but said it only works well in certain settings.

“In the medical context, this heuristic would be rational only if the specifics of the prior patient matched the specifics of the current patient and thus provided a useful learning experience. In that case, if one patient’s delivery went wrong, it can tell the physician that the same delivery plan may not work well with another patient with very similar characteristics and indications,” they wrote. “However, two patients who happen to have consecutive deliveries by the same physician are not expected to be highly similar.”

These mental shortcuts are not to suggest a lack of expertise or training, they stress, but the findings shows that it is a common tendency, even among more experienced doctors. Colby and Li offer several suggestions to help physicians overcome their reliance on maladaptive heuristics or decision rules. Firstly, the phenomenon needs to be acknowledged within the profession without condemning physicians.

“Although understanding decision biases usually does not entirely ameliorate them, teaching doctors about heuristics may promote the acceptance of potential interventions,” they wrote. “More research and clinical efforts need to focus on designing and testing decision aids that are beneficial to patients and user-friendly to physicians.

“In addition to making sure that the decision aid has a high degree of scientific accuracy in recommending the optimal treatment option, studies also need to examine whether physicians will accept and use such recommendations,” they added. “Physicians may have understandable concerns about recommendations from a ‘black box.’”

Prof Colby also said this is not an attempt to sound an alarm on doctors or castigate them for not always making optimal decisions, instead highlighting that doctors, like all experts, are only human.

“We patients, and often the doctors themselves, want to think of doctors and other healthcare staff as omniscient and omnipotent – a bastion of strength when we are in our time of need,” she said. “Doctors are regularly rated as the most respected profession in the United States, and a recent study found that doctors are often ascribed godlike powers.

“We cannot seek to assist medical decision making without first admitting the nature of the decision makers,” she added. “Helping doctors to make better decisions through reduced reliance on heuristics and decision rules should be a public health priority… It may be scary to admit that doctors are human, but it is the best thing we can do to help them, and ultimately to help them help us.”

Source: Indiana University

ECG Readings Can Predict Worsening and Mortality in COVID and Influenza

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Specific and dynamic changes on electrocardiograms (ECGs) of hospitalised COVID patients with COVID or influenza can help predict a timeframe for worsening health and death, according to a new Mount Sinai study.

Published in the American Journal of Cardiology, the study shows that shrinking waveforms on these tests can be used to help better identify high-risk patients and provide them more aggressive monitoring and treatment.  

“Our study shows diminished waveforms on ECGs over the course of COVID illness can be an important tool for health care workers caring for these patients, allowing them to catch rapid clinical changes over their hospital stay and intervene more quickly. […] ECGs may be helpful for hospitals to use when caring for these patients before their condition gets dramatically worse,” said senior author Joshua Lampert, MD, Cardiac Electrophysiology fellow at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “This is particularly useful in overwhelmed systems, as there is no wait for blood work to return and this test can be performed by the majority of health care personnel. Additionally, the ECG can be done at the time of other bedside patient care, eliminating the potential exposure of another health care worker to COVID.”

Researchers did a retrospective analysis of ECGs on 140 hospitalised COVID patients across the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, and compared them with 281 ECGs from patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza A or B admitted to The Mount Sinai Hospital.  
For each patient, the researchers compared three ECG time points: a baseline scan done within a year prior to COVID or influenza hospitalisation, a scan taken at hospital admission, and follow-up ECGs performed during hospitalisation.

They manually measured QRS waveform height on all electrocardiograms – changes in this electrical activity can indicate failing ventricles. The researchers analysed follow-up ECGs after hospital admission and analysed changes in the waveforms according to a set of criteria they designed  called LoQRS amplitude (LoQRS) to identify a reduced signal. LoQRS was defined by QRS amplitude of less than 5mm measured from the arms and legs or less than 10mm when measured on the chest wall as well as a relative reduction in waveform height in either location by at least 50%.

Fifty-two COVID patients in the study did not survive, and 74% of those had LoQRS. Their ECG QRS waveforms reduced approximately 5.3 days into their hospital admission and they died approximately two days after the first abnormal ECG was observed.

Out of the 281 influenza patients studied, LoQRS was identified in 11 percent of them. Seventeen influenza patients died, and 39% had LoQRS present. Influenza patients met LoQRS criteria a median of 55 days into their hospital admission, and the median time to death was six days from when LoQRS was identified. Overall, these results show influenza patients followed a less virulent course of illness when compared to COVID patients.

“When it comes to caring for COVID patients, our findings suggest it may be beneficial not only for health care providers to check an EKG when the patient first arrives at the hospital, but also follow-up ECGs during their hospital stay to assess for LoQRS, particularly if the patient has not made profound clinical progress. If LoQRS is present, the team may want to consider escalating medical therapy or transferring the patient to a highly monitored setting such as an intensive care unit (ICU) in anticipation of declining health,” added Dr Lampert.

Source: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Prone Positioning Reduces Need for Mechanical Ventilation

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A ‘meta-trial’ of 1100 hospitalised COVID patients requiring high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy suggests that prone positioning soon after admission can significantly reduce the need for mechanical ventilation.

While acute respiratory distress syndrome patients have been placed prone for years by critical care specialists, this study provides clinical evidence needed to support the use of prone positioning for patients with COVID requiring high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy.

The findings, published today in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, were conducted on severely ill COVID patients between April 2020 and January 2021.

“Breathing in the prone position helps the lungs work more efficiently,” explained the study’s lead author Dr. Jie Li, associate professor and respiratory therapist at Rush University Medical Center. “When people with severe oxygenation issues are laying on their stomachs, it results in better matching of the blood flow and ventilation in the lungs which improves blood oxygen levels.”

Prof Li noted that several interventions are available to improve oxygenation in critically ill patients, but that there was little outcomes-focused clinical evidence to show that prone positioning prior to mechanical ventilation is beneficial.

Adult patients with COVID needing respiratory support from a high-flow nasal cannula agreed to participate in this clinical trial, and were randomly assigned to the supine or prone positioning groups. They were asked to stay in that position for as long as they could tolerate. Both positioning groups received high-flow oxygen therapy and standard medical management.

Patients were continually monitored to determine if mechanical ventilation was needed. This study’s data showed that patients in the prone positioning group were significantly less likely to require mechanical ventilation (33% in the awake prone positioning group vs 40% in the supine group).

Another study lead author, Stephan Ehrmann, MD, PhD, said that “for the clinical implications of our study, awake prone positioning is a safe intervention that reduces the risk of treatment failure in acute severe hypoxemic respiratory failure due to COVID-19. Our findings support the routine implementation of awake prone positioning in critically ill patients with COVID19 requiring high flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy. It appears important that clinicians improve patient comfort during prone positioning, so the patient can stay in the position for at least 8 hours a day.”

Reducing the need for mechanical ventilation cuts down on resources needed. “Ventilators can indeed save the lives of people who are no longer able to breathe on their own. That said, we now have strategies to keep patients off the ventilator, saving those devices for the sickest patients who truly need them.” Prof Li added.

Source: Medical Xpress

New Medical Device Slashes Surgery Risk

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A new electromedical device provides important data about possible cardiovascular and pulmonary risks before an operation.

Before any operation, it is important to properly assess the individual risk: Are there perhaps circulatory or pulmonary problems that need special consideration? To what extent can special risks be taken into account when planning the anaesthesia? Previously, clinicians have had to rely on rather subjective empirical values or carry out more elaborate examinations when in doubt. To address this, a novel device has been developed by TU Wien and MedUni Wien to objectively measure the cardiovascular and pulmonary system fitness of patients.

Pre-op interviews are important—but subjective
Complications often occur after surgical interventions. In addition to blood loss and sepsis, perioperative cardiovascular and pulmonary problems are among the most common causes of death in the first 30 days after surgery.

To minimise this risk, anesthesiologists routinely talk to patients before surgery, in addition to measuring their blood pressure, performing an electrocardiogram, or conducting more laborious examinations. But assessing responses can be highly individualised. “There are also objectively measurable parameters by which one could easily identify possible risks,” said Prof Eugenijus Kaniusas (TU Wien, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology). “So far, however, they have not been routinely measured.”

Just hold your breath
This new device uses multiple sensors to determine key metrics in a completely non-invasive way. All the patient has to do is hold their breath for a short time to slightly outbalance their body, which responds reflexively with various biosignals. “Holding your breath is a mild stress for the body, but that is already enough to observe changes in the regulatory cardiovascular and pulmonary systems,” explained Eugenijus Kaniusas. “Oxygen saturation in the blood, heart rate variability, certain characteristics of the pulse waveform—these are dynamic parameters that we can measure in a simple way, and from them we could ideally infer individual fitness in general, especially before surgery.”

Since the device is non-invasive, medical training is not needed to operate it, and has no side effects. The result is easy to read: A rough assessment according to the three-color traffic light system or a score between 0 and 100 is displayed. The measurement can also be carried out at the bedside without any problems for people with limited mobility.

“Our laboratory prototype is being tested at MedUni Wien in cooperation with Prof. Klaus Klein from the University Department of Anesthesia, General Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy. We hope to bring the device to market in the next 5 years with the help of research and transfer support,” said Eugenijus Kaniusas.

Source: Vienna University of Technology

Cancer Surgery Patients Have a Reduced Hospital Stay with ‘Prehabilitation’

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A new approach to improve their fitness for surgery reduced the length of hospital stay for cancer patients, according to a new study.

Termed ‘prehabilitation’, the study’s approach includes exercise, nutrition and psychological and social interventions to bolster physical and mental health before surgery.

The study, published in the Annals of Surgery, found that prehabilitation interventions of between one and four weeks reduced cancer patients’ stay in hospital by 1.8 days compared with usual care.

Study author Dr Chris Gaffney from Lancaster Medical School said: “Surgery is like a marathon in terms of stressing the body, and you wouldn’t run a marathon without training.”

The researchers found that as little as one week can still benefit patient outcomes, indicating that prehabilitation should be recommended to accelerate recovery from cancer surgery, as shown by a reduced hospital length of stay.

Study author Dr Joel Lambert, now a postgraduate student at Lancaster Medical School and a surgeon at East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We think that it may also confer a survival advantage for cancer patients as they can get to follow up treatments like chemotherapy more quickly.

“We think that the patient groups most likely to benefit are the ones with lower levels of fitness at baseline. In the Northwest we have some of the most socioeconomically deprived populations in the UK. This subset tend to have more co-morbid conditions hence less fit.”  

The patients studied were those with liver, colorectal, and upper gastrointestinal cancer, and who are often less fit than other cancer patients.

The study interventions were grouped into three types

  • Multimodal prehabilitation: exercise, which included both nutrition and psychosocial support,
  • Bimodal prehabilitation: exercise and nutrition or psychosocial support
  • Unimodal prehabilitation: exercise or nutrition alone

The exercise interventions included aerobic, resistance, and both aerobic and resistance exercises at all levels of intensity, some supervised by a kinesiologist or physiotherapist, while others were home-based exercise regimes. These ranged from one to four weeks and all interventions were within the current NHS surgery targets for cancer surgery.

The researchers concluded: “Future studies should focus on identifying patients who would benefit most from prehabilitation and the mechanistic underpinning of any improvement in clinical outcomes. Studies should closely monitor nutrition intake to determine if the response to exercise prehabilitation is dependent upon nutritional status. Lastly, mortality should be monitored for 12 months post surgery to determine if prehabilitation has any effect beyond 30 or 90 days.”

Source: Lancaster University

Sleep Deprivation Common in Surgeons, Impacting Performance

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New research has found that surgeons were sleep deprived prior to on-call shifts and afterwards even more so, and crucially, that sleep deprivation impacted surgical performance. 

The study is the first to focus on Irish surgeons and is published in the Journal of Surgical Research. A separate study found that short naps of 30 to 60 minutes do little to reduce sleep deprivation.

Focussing on the effects of being ‘on-call’, a frequent state for surgeons, the study explored subjective and objective metrics around sleep and performance using ‘on-call’ as a particular influencer for increased fatigue.

Surgeons frequently work 24 straight hours (or more) resulting in unavoidable sleep disturbance. This is partly due to historical associations of the Halstedian Era of Surgery to ‘reside’ in the hospital in order to properly learn, but also current staffing levels mandating surgeons to complete regular on-call work.

Participants were hooked up to electroencephalogram (EEG) machines and a validated modified Multiple Sleep Latency Test testing was used to objectively measure sleep on the morning of their on-call shift. The researchers also record other validated tests for subjective sleep and fatigue measurement. ‘Sleep latency’ refers to the time it takes to go from being fully awake to sleeping and is often an indicator of sleepiness. The surgeons in the study had early onset sleep latency before on-call, which was exacerbated further in post-call settings.

Performance was measured with standardised and validated tools. Technical performance of surgeons was assessed using the validated Simendo © surgical simulator, while cognitive performance was measured using the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) to assess objective alertness and reaction time, a known aspect of cognitive performance.

The study is the first to attempt to control for a series of confounding variables such as experience, quality and quantity of sleep, the influence of caffeine and circadian rhythm influences.

The study found that:

  • Surgeons had poor baseline sleep quality and were objectively sleep-deprived, even pre-call, when they should be in a ‘rested state’.
  • In all study participants, early onset sleep latency was seen in pre-call settings and worsened in post-call settings.
  • Early onset sleep latency was worse in trainees compared to consultants, though both groups experienced early onset sleep latency post-call.
  • As sleep-deprivation increased, diminished performance was seen in cognitive tasks and surgical tasks with greater cognitive components.
  • Higher levels of self-reported fatigue and daytime sleepiness were recorded post-call.

Technical skill performance was relatively preserved in acutely sleep deprived states but may be influenced by learning curve effects and experience in surgical tasks.

Existing models of surgical on-call were not conducive to optimising sleep for surgeons, the research found. But making changes for better sleep has challenges, such as loss of continuity of patient care, loss of trainee exposure, and reduced service delivery.

Dale Whelehan, PhD researcher in Behaviour Science at the School of Medicine and lead researcher commented: “The findings of this study tell us that current provision of on-call models preclude the opportunity for surgeons to get enough rest. Similarly, surgeons are sleep deprived before going on-call which further perpetuates the issue. The implications for performance suggest aspects of surgeons performance is diminished, particularly tasks which might be more cognitively demanding. 

“We need meaningful engagement from all stakeholders in the process, working towards the common goal of optimising performance in surgeons. This involves looking at the multifactorial causes and effects of fatigue. Part of that discussion involves consideration around how current models of on-call influence sleep levels in healthcare staff, and how it creates barriers to fatigue management in staff.”

Professor Paul Ridgway, Department of Surgery at Trinity, who supervised the study, said: “Our study is further evidence that the way we deliver emergency work alongside normal work in Ireland has to change. We need to learn from our colleagues in aviation who have mandatory rest periods before flights.”

Source: Trinity College Dublin

One in Ten COVID Cases Infected After Hospital Admission

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In the UK’s first wave, more than one in ten COVID hospitalised patients acquired the disease in a hospital according to researchers conducting the world’s largest study of severe COVID.

Dr Jonathan Read from Lancaster University with colleagues from other UK universities led the research into hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) which was published in The Lancet.

For the study, researchers analysed records of COVID patients in UK hospitals enrolled in the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC) Clinical Characterisation Protocol UK (CCP-UK) study, who became ill before 1st August 2020.

The researchers found that at least 11.1% of COVID patients in 314 UK hospitals were infected after admission. The proportion of hospital-acquired infections also rose to between 16% and 20% in mid-May 2020, well after the first wave’s peak in admissions.

“We estimate between 5699 and 11 862 patients admitted in the first wave were infected during their stay in hospital. This is, unfortunately, likely to be an underestimate, as we did not include patients who may have been infected but discharged before they could be diagnosed,” the researchers said.

“Controlling viruses like SARS-CoV-2 has been difficult in the past, so the situation could have been much worse. However, infection control should remain a priority in hospitals and care facilities,” said Dr Read.

Dr Chris Green, University of Birmingham, said: “There are likely to be a number of reasons why many patients were infected in these care settings. These include the large numbers of patients admitted to hospitals with limited facilities for case isolation, limited access to rapid and reliable diagnostic testing in the early stages of the outbreak, the challenges around access to and best use of PPE, our understanding of when patients are most infectious in their illness, some misclassification of cases due to presentation with atypical symptoms, and an under-appreciation of the role of airborne transmission.”

According to the type of care provided, there were notable differences in infections. Lower proportions of hospital-acquired infection were seen in hospitals providing acute and general care (9.7%) than residential community care hospitals (61.9%) and mental health hospitals (67.5%).
Professor Calum Semple, University of Liverpool, said: “The reasons for the variation between settings that provide the same type of care requires urgent investigation to identify and promote best infection control practice. Research has now been commissioned to find out what was done well and what lessons need to be learned to improve patient safety.”

Source: Lancaster University

High-dose Heparin Reduces Worsening in Moderate COVID

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Giving moderately ill hospitalised COVID patients a full-dose of heparin reduced the risk for organ support, and shortened hospital stays, a large clinical trial has found.

However, the use of this treatment strategy for critically ill COVID patients did not result in the same outcomes. 

“These results make for a compelling example of how important it is to stratify patients with different disease severity in clinical trials. What might help one subgroup of patients might be of no benefit, or even harmful, in another,” said NHLBI Director Gary H. Gibbons, M.D.

Researchers have observed that in some people who died from COVID, blood clots had formed throughout their bodies, even in their smallest blood vessels. Antithrombotics, which include blood thinners or anticoagulants, help prevent clot formation in certain diseases. It was not known which antithrombotic drug, what dose, and at what point during the course of COVID, antithrombotics might be effective. To answer these urgent questions, three international partners came together and harmonised their trial protocols to study the effects of using a full, or therapeutic dose, of heparin versus a low, or prophylactic dose, of heparin in moderately and critically ill patients hospitalised with COVID.

Moderately ill patients were defined as being hospitalised for COVID without needing organ support, and critically ill patients as hospitalised for COVID and needing intensive care level of support, including respiratory and/or cardiovascular organ support.

In April 2020, hospitalised COVID patients received either a low or full dose of heparin for up to 14 days after enrollment. By December 2020, interim results suggested that in critically ill patients, full-dose anticoagulation did not reduce the need for organ support and may even be harmful. However, one month later, results suggested full heparin doses likely benefited moderately ill patients.
“The formal conclusions from these studies suggest that initiating therapeutic anticoagulation is beneficial for moderately ill patients and once patients develop severe COVID-19, it may be too late for anticoagulation with heparin to alter the consequences of this disease,” said Judith Hochman, M.D., senior associate dean for Clinical Sciences at New York University, a corresponding author. “The medication evaluated in these trials is familiar to doctors around the world and is widely accessible, making the findings highly applicable to moderately ill COVID-19 patients.”

Fnal trial data analysis included 1098 critically ill and 2219 moderately ill patients. Among moderately ill patients, researchers found that the likelihood of full-dose heparin to reduce the need for organ support compared to those who received low-dose heparin was 99%. Major bleeding was rare. For critically ill patients, full-dose heparin also decreased the number of major thrombotic events, but it did not reduce the need for organ support or shorten hospital stay.

“More work needs to be done to continue to improve outcomes in patients with COVID-19,” said Matthew D. Neal, M.D., the Roberta G. Simmons Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, co-senior author. “Given what we know about the type of blood clots in patients with COVID-19, testing anti-platelet agents is a particularly exciting approach.”

Source: NIH