Background: A comprehensive description of the clinical characteristics, inpatient trajectory and relationship with frailty of older inpatients admitted with COVID-19 is essential in the management of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to describe the clinical features and inpatient trajectory of older inpatients with confirmed COVID -19.
Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of hospitalised older adults. Subjects include unscheduled medical admissions of older inpatients to a University Hospital with laboratory and clinically confirmed COVID-19. The primary outcome was death during the inpatient stay or within 14 days of discharge after a maximum follow up time of 45 days. The characteristics of the cohort were described in detail as a whole and by frailty status.
Results: 214 patients were included in this study with a mean length of stay of 11 days (Range 6 to 18 days), of whom 140 (65.4%) patients were discharged and 74 (34.6%) patients died in hospital. 142 (66.4%) patients were frail with median Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) score of 6. Frail patients were more likely to present with atypical symptoms including new or worsening confusion compared to non-frail patients (20.8% vs 45.1%, p<0.001) and were more likely to die in hospital or within 14 days of discharge (66% vs 16%, p=0.001). Older age, being male, presenting with high illness acuity and high frailty were all independently associated with higher risk of death and a dose response association between higher frailty and higher mortality was observed.
Conclusions: Older adult inpatients with COVID-19 infection are likely to present with atypical symptoms, experience delirium and have a high mortality, especially if they are also living with frailty. Clinicians should have a low threshold for testing for COVID-19 in older and frail patients presenting to hospital as an emergency during periods when there is community transmission of COVID-19 and, when diagnosed, this should prompt early advanced care planning with the patient and family.