Death among patients hospitalized with symptomatic COVID-19: Implications for high-risk patients

Mihaela S. Stefan*, Ahmed Eltanbedawi, Neil C. Devoe, Sabiha Khan, Ya Zhou, Taroob Latef, Anthony Esposito, Anum Fatima, Alexander B. Knee, Tara C. Lagu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: We aimed to examine the role played by the COVID-19 infection in patients' death and to determine the proportion of patients for whom it was a major contributor to death. Methods: We included patients ≥50 years old who were hospitalized with COVID-19 infection and died between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020 in a tertiary medical center. We considered COVID-19 infection to be a major cause for death if the patient had well-controlled medical conditions and death was improbable without coronavirus infection, and a minor cause for death if the patient had serious illnesses and had an indication for palliative care. Results: Among 243 patients, median age was 80 (interquartile intervals: 72–86) and 40% were female. One in two had moderate or severe frailty and 41% had dementia. Nearly 60% of the patients were classified as having advanced, serious illnesses present prior to the hospitalization, with death being expected within 12 months, and among this group 39% were full code at admission. In the remaining 40% of patients, deaths were classified as unexpected based on patients' prior conditions, suggesting that COVID-19 infection complications were the primary contributor to death. Conclusions: For slightly less than half (40%) of patients who died of complications of COVID-19, death was an unexpected event. Among the 60% of patients for whom death was not a surprise, our findings identify opportunities to improve end-of-life discussions and implement shared decision-making in high-risk patients early on or prior to hospitalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-258
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hospital Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Care Planning
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Health Policy
  • Leadership and Management
  • Internal Medicine


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