A unique Danish Covid-19 study presents its data

​What happened to Covid-19 patients in Danish intensive-care departments during the first wave of Corona in the spring

For the first time, Danish intensive-care departments have provided a complete account of the intensive-care patients who were admitted during the first wave of corona up to 20 May 2020. During that time, 323 patients were admitted to intensive-care departments across Denmark with SARS-CoV-2.

- We were facing a completely new disease and press rumours of a mortality rate of up to 80% for patients who could no longer breath on their own and had to be put on a ventilator. This is why we joined forces to compile data on patients in all Danish intensive-care departments, says Nicolai Haase, an intensive care physician at Rigshospitalet who initiated the study.

The results of the study have now been published in the international journal ACTA, and they present data on gender, age, pre-existing conditions, survival rates, mortality rates and the course of treatment for patients in intensive-care departments.

Danish intensive care departments have done well

Danish Covid-19 patients in intensive-care departments are comparatively older than patients in the UK, Italy, the US and China. Despite being older, the mortality rate among those patients is relatively low. Seen in this light, Danish Covid-19 patients have fared pretty well.

The average age of Covid-19 patients in Danish hospitals is 68 years. Approximately one-third of patients were healthy and had no chronic illnesses prior to admission.

Eight out of ten patients were put on a ventilator, half of whom remained on a ventilator for two weeks. A quarter of patients remained on a ventilator for three weeks or longer, and this is considerably longer than usual for patients in intensive-care.

Thirty-seven percent of patients died while in hospital with Covid-19, and even though this is high, it is relatively low compared with figures for other countries. For patients without any other illness, the mortality rate dropped to twenty-five percent. The risk of fatality from the illness is higher for the elderly, males and those suffering from chronic illness, especially pulmonary diseases.

Statens Seruminstitut (SSI) has estimated that approximately 70,000 patients were infected with Covid-19 during the same period. This means that 0.5 per cent of all infected people are at risk of being admitted to an intensive-care department.

Knowledge about Corona is crucial

Nicolai Haase encourages people to look at accurate information about coronavirus and Covid-19 and the facts and figures for the course of the illness, which studies like this help ensure:

- When we need to deal with coronavirus medically, politically and personally, it's incredibly important that we do not base our decisions on rumours and stories from global hotspots, but rather, that we have accurate information about coronavirus in Denmark, says Nicolai Haas, who together with colleagues across Denmark is keeping tabs on the continued treatment of patients:

- With such long periods spent in intensive-care and in a ventilator, some of our patients face a long rehabilitation process and we cannot rule out that some patients will suffer permanent damage. The media is focusing on this at the moment and we therefore need accurate figures. And we're collecting these right now, says Nicolai Haase.

Following-up on patients

No other countries have been able to collect similar national figures, and the broad collaboration in a busy time has impressed Nicolai Haase.

- Our figures show that intensive-care departments in Denmark have been able to provide high quality treatment, despite the chaotic situation. We had to prepare for additional patients and expand our capacity, but fortunately we received a lot of help from staff in other departments. We're constantly getting better at understanding and treating the disease effectively using antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs, says Nicolai Haase who, together with colleagues from Denmark's intensive-care departments, will continue to follow-up on patients.

Steffen Christensen, Intensive Care Consultant at Aarhus University Hospital, is pleased about the successful collaboration on patients and data collection:

- When Covid-19 hit Denmark in the spring, we were able to quickly implement plans to manage a potentially large number of critically ill patients. We often had help from staff from other departments and from across different fields. The successful internal collaboration at hospitals meant that the capacity of intensive-care departments was not exceeded, says Steffen Christensen, chairman of the Danish Intensive Care Database (DID).

- The treatment of critically ill Covid-19 patients has regularly been discussed by the professional community across all Danish intensive-care departments. This has helped improve the quality of treatment, and the active participation from all intensive-care departments for this study is an excellent example of collaboration, says Steffen Christensen.


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