The different manifestations of COVID-19 in adults and children: a cohort study in an intensive care unit

Mònica Girona-Alarcon, Sara Bobillo-Perez, Anna Sole-Ribalta, Lluisa Hernandez, Carmina Guitart, Ricardo Suarez, Mònica Balaguer, Francisco-Jose Cambra, Iolanda Jordan
BMC Infectious Diseases 2021 January 20, 21 (1): 87

BACKGROUND: The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has collapsed health systems worldwide. In adults, the virus causes severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), while in children the disease seems to be milder, although a severe multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) has been described. The aim was to describe and compare the characteristics of the severe COVID-19 disease in adults and children.

METHODS: This prospective observational cohort study included the young adults and children infected with SARS-CoV-2 between March-June 2020 and admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit. The two populations were analysed and compared focusing on their clinical and analytical characteristics and outcomes.

RESULTS: Twenty patients were included. There were 16 adults (80%) and 4 children (20%). No mortality was recorded. All the adults were admitted due to ARDS. The median age was 32 years (IQR 23.3-41.5) and the most relevant previous pathology was obesity (n = 7, 43.7%). Thirteen (81.3%) needed mechanical ventilation, with a median PEEP of 13 (IQR 10.5-14.5). Six (37.5%) needed inotropic support due to the sedation. Eight (50%) developed a healthcare-associated infection, the most frequent of which was central line-associated bloodstream infection (n = 7, 71.4%). One patient developed a partial pulmonary thromboembolism, despite him being treated with heparin. All the children were admitted due to MIS-C. Two (50%) required mechanical ventilation. All needed inotropic support, with a median vasoactive-inotropic score of 27.5 (IQR 17.5-30). The difference in the inotropic requirements between the two populations was statistically significant (37.5% vs. 100%, p < 0.001). The biomarker values were higher in children than in adults: mid-regional pro-adrenomedullin 1.72 vs. 0.78 nmol/L (p = 0.017), procalcitonin 5.7 vs. 0.19 ng/mL (p = 0.023), and C-reactive protein 328.2 vs. 146.9 mg/L (p = 0.005). N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide and troponins were higher in children than in adults (p = 0.034 and p = 0.039, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Adults and children had different clinical manifestations. Adults developed severe ARDS requiring increased respiratory support, whereas children presented MIS-C with greater inotropic requirements. Biomarkers could be helpful in identifying susceptible patients, since they might change depending on the clinical features.

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