New data show that asthma is associated with longer time spent on ventilators for hospitalized younger patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center. 

Patients with COVID-19 between the ages of 20 and 59 years who also had asthma needed a ventilator to assist with breathing for 5 days more on average than non-asthmatic patients with COVID-19, according to a press release.

“Our findings suggest that younger individuals with asthma may require extra attention, as they could develop a sustained pulmonary failure with COVID-19 infection, leading to prolonged mechanical ventilation,” said Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, chief of allergy and immunology in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush University Medical Center, in a press release.

Using an electronic medical record algorithm created by the information services team at the medical center, the researchers identified patients with asthma and COVID-19 who were either hospitalized or tested for COVID-19 at Rush University Medical Center between March 12 and April 3, 2020. 

The analysis of COVID-19 outcomes in association with asthma was conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics and were adjusted for demographic variables and body mass index. 

Data emerged for 1003 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, and complete data on demographic variables, asthma, and COVID-19 management was available in 935 patients who were used for analysis. Overall, 241 patients were found to have an established diagnosis of asthma, which were broken into 3 groups by age range.

Asthma was significantly associated with longer intubation time in patients between 18 and 49 years of age and between 50 and 64 years of age, but not in those 65 years of age and older, according to the study authors. 

Duration of hospitalization was longer among patients with a history of asthma compared with those without this history in patients aged 50 to 64 years. However, this was not the case in the younger or older age groups. The patients in the 50 to 64 age group spent 2 more days in the hospital than the non-asthmatics in this age group. 

Asthma was not associated with a higher rate of death or with acute respiratory distress syndrome among COVID-19 patients. The analysis, which was adjusted for both obesity and gender, indicates that asthma is independently linked to the amount of time patients needed to be on ventilators.

“We were able to confirm asthma in prior clinical documentation among 73% of patients, but some cases were self-reported upon screening. We think that patients with a history of asthma may have sought out COVID-19 testing more than others due to concern and overlapping symptoms,” Mahdavinia said in a press release.

Asthma associated with longer time on ventilators for younger COVID-19 patients. Rush University Medical Center. Published May 15, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020.