COVID-19 Unpredictable, Even After Emergency Dept Visit

It’s scary enough to have COVID-19. But imagine going to the emergency room (ED) with symptoms, testing positive, and then being sent home to come back sick days later than before.

“We were surprised by the overall rate [COVID] Patients come back and need an intake that is twice that of other diseases, ”said Dr. Austin Kilaru in an article in Penn Medicine News.

Dr. Kilaru, an emergency physician at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, is the lead author of a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman Medical School. They found that 8% of COVID patients who were well enough to go home after their first visit to the emergency room returned to the hospital within a week.

The researchers tracked around 1,400 patients who attended 5 U.S. emergency rooms in March, April, and May. About 5% of patients were hospitalized within 3 days of their first visit. Around 4% returned but went back home. Patients with a fever, low oxygen levels, or abnormal chest x-rays were more likely to return to hospital, as were older patients.

“[I]It can be difficult to make this diagnosis and send patients home without knowing if they will get sick in the coming days, ”said Dr. Kilaru in Penn Today’s article. “[T]His study gives doctors some guide to how often and when patients may need to return and what risk factors to be aware of. “

The study is a heads-up for doctors. “The concern is not that emergency doctors will make wrong decisions,” said Dr. Kilaru, “but that COVID can be unpredictable and get serious pretty quickly.”