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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


NEMATSWERANI, N et al. The impact of routine pulse oximetry use on outcomes in COVID-19-infected patients at increased risk of severe disease: A retrospective cohort analysis. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.10, pp.950-956. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: The phenomenon of silent hypoxaemia has been described in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, which is characterised by low oxygen saturation levels of <90% in those who appear clinically well and do not show signs of significant respiratory distress.OBJECTIVES: To assess the impact on clinical outcomes for high-risk COVID-19 patients using a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation levels in a home setting.METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort analysis using data from a large South African insurance administrator. Patients were categorised as high risk, based on age and specific underlying clinical conditions, or from predictive models derived from medical scheme administrative claims data. The impact of pulse oximetry home monitoring on COVID-19 clinical outcomes was investigated by the use of Cox proportional hazard models.RESULTS: Between 2 March 2020 and 31 October 2020, of 38 660 patients analysed, 8 115 were in the intervention group. The 60-day mortality rate for the evaluated high-risk population was 1.35%. After adjusting for age and comorbidity differences, the intervention group was found to have an adjusted hazard ratio of 0.52 (p<0.0001). No statistical significance was found between the intervened and control groups for admission to hospital, admission to intensive care unit (ICU) and use of mechanical ventilation. The intervention group had a lower median C-reactive protein (CRP) level on admission (p=0.03). After adjustment for admission CRP levels, elevated CRP was associated with an increased mortality (p<0.0001), while the statistical significance in mortality between the intervention and the control group was lost.CONCLUSIONS: High-risk COVID-19 patients who used a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation levels had significantly lower mortality rates compared with other high-risk patients. The mortality benefit may be explained by earlier presentation to hospital, as suggested by lower initial CRP levels.

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