Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City have developed a new clinical tool to accurately identify and diagnose COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of developing a serious inflammatory condition that can damage the lungs and other organs.
The new tool is a diagnostic clinical score that is used to determine whether patients with the virus are at increased risk of developing the condition, known as hyperinflammatory syndrome, also sometimes referred to as a “cytokine storm.” This condition causes the immune system to react in an inappropriate and excessive way, causing damage to organs.
Diagnosing this hyperinflammatory syndrome is very important, the scientists said. With the new scoring diagnostic criteria, clinicians can now identify patients early and ideally prescribe treatments before the condition progresses and causes patients to deteriorate to critical levels.
Researchers studied the accuracy of the diagnostic tool as part of a new study that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet Rheumatology.
For the study, researchers applied the new cHIS diagnostic score to 299 patients admitted to Intermountain hospitals with severe COVID-19. They found that that the criteria accurately identify patients who are at high risk for deteriorating clinically and requiring high oxygen supplementation, going on the ventilator or dying. Researchers also found that COVID-19 patients with elevated cHIS criteria were four times more likely to progress to need the ventilator for respiratory support.
“The prognostic value of the cHIS score is important because it can help doctors identify patients who are at risk of progressing to much more severe disease before it happens,” said Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare and principal investigator of the study.
“The cHIS score is also important in two other ways,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, critical care physician at Intermountain and co-investigator on the study. “First, it will help us to design clinical trials targeting the patients for whom new drugs are most likely to work, and secondly, it allows us to now tailor our treatment strategy to give the right drugs to the right patients who are most likely to benefit.”