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BACKGROUND: The global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has placed a huge strain on UK hospitals. Early studies suggest that patients can deteriorate quickly after admission to hospital. The aim of this study was to model changes in vital signs for patients hospitalised with COVID-19. METHODS: This was a retrospective observational study of adult patients with COVID-19 admitted to one acute hospital trust in the UK (CV) and a cohort of patients admitted to the same hospital between 2013-2017 with viral pneumonia (VI). The primary outcome was the start of continuous positive airway pressure/non-invasive positive pressure ventilation, ICU admission or death in hospital. We used non-linear mixed-effects models to compare changes in vital sign observations prior to the primary outcome. Using observations and FiO2 measured at discharge in the VI cohort as the model of normality, we also combined individual vital signs into a single novelty score. RESULTS: There were 497 cases of COVID-19, of whom 373 had been discharged from hospital. 135 (36.2%) of patients experienced the primary outcome, of whom 99 died in hospital. In-hospital mortality was over 4-times higher in the CV than the VI cohort (26.5% vs 6%). For those patients who experienced the primary outcome, CV patients became increasingly hypoxaemic, with a median estimated FiO2 (0.75) higher than that of the VI cohort (estimated FiO2 of 0.35). Prior to the primary outcome, blood pressure remained within normal range, and there was only a small rise in heart rate. The novelty score showed that patients with COVID-19 deteriorated more rapidly that patients with viral pneumonia. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with COVID-19 who deteriorate in hospital experience rapidly-worsening respiratory failure, with low SpO2 and high FiO2, but only minor abnormalities in other vital signs. This has potential implications for the ability of early warning scores to identify deteriorating patients.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





99 - 106


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Betacoronavirus, COVID-19, Coronavirus Infections, Female, Hospital Mortality, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Pandemics, Pneumonia, Viral, Retrospective Studies, SARS-CoV-2, Survival Rate, Triage, United Kingdom, Vital Signs