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Survival of Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients in Sweden During the First Two and a Half Years of the Pandemic.

OBJECTIVES: Some studies have examined survival trends among critically ill COVID-19 patients, but most were case reports, small cohorts, and had relatively short follow-up periods. We aimed to examine the survival trend among critically ill COVID-19 patients during the first two and a half years of the pandemic and investigate potential predictors across different variants of concern periods.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Swedish ICUs, between March 6, 2020, and December 31, 2022.

PATIENTS: Adult COVID-19 ICU patients of 18 years old or older from the Swedish Intensive Care Register (SIR) that were linked to multiple other national registers.

MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS: Survival probability and predictors of COVID-19 death were estimated using Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analysis. Of 8975 patients, 2927 (32.6%) died. The survival rate among COVID-19 critically ill patients appears to have changed over time, with a worse survival in the Omicron period overall. The adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) comparing older and younger ages were consistently strong but slightly attenuated in the Omicron period. After adjustment, the aHR of death was significantly higher for men, older age (40+ yr), low income, and with comorbid chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, impaired immune disease, chronic renal disease, stroke, and cancer, and for those requiring invasive or noninvasive respiratory supports, who developed septic shock or had organ failures (p < 0.05). In contrast, foreign-born patients, those with booster vaccine, and those who had taken steroids had better survival (aHR = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.80-0.95; 0.74, 0.65-0.84, and 0.91, 0.84-0.98, respectively). Observed associations were similar across different variant periods.

CONCLUSIONS: In this nationwide Swedish cohort covering over two and a half years of the pandemic, ICU survival rates changed over time. Older age was a strong predictor across all periods. Furthermore, most other mortality predictors remained consistent across different variant periods.

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