Mortality in patients admitted to intensive care with COVID-19: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Richard Armstrong, Andrew Kane, Emira Kursumovic, Fiona Oglesby, Tim M Cook*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


COVID-19 continues to cause critical illness and deaths internationally. Up to 31 May 2020 mortality in patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID-19 was 41.6%. Since then, changes in therapeutics and management may have improved outcomes. Also, data from countries affected later in the pandemic are now available. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PubMed and Cochrane databases up to 30 September 2020 for studies reporting ICU mortality among adult patients with COVID-19 and present an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. The primary outcome measure was death
in intensive care as a proportion of completed ICU admissions, either through discharge from the ICU or death. We identified 52 observational studies including 43,128 patients, and first reports from the Middle East, South Asia and Australasia, as well as four national or regional registries. Reported mortality was lower in registries compared with other reports. In two regions mortality differed significantly from all others, being higher in the Middle East and lower in a single registry study from Australasia. Although reported ICU mortality (95%CI) was lower than reported in June (35.5% (31.3–39.9%) vs 41.6% (34.0-49.7%)), the absence of patient-level data prevents a definitive evaluation. A
lack of standardisation of reporting prevents comparison of cohorts in terms of underlying risk, the severity of illness, or outcomes. We found that the decrease in ICU mortality from COVID-19 has reduced or plateaued since May 2020 and note the possibility of some geographical variation. More standardisation in reporting would improve the ability to compare outcomes from different reports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-548
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Early online date1 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Structured keywords

  • Covid19


  • COVID-19
  • intensive care
  • meta-analysis
  • mortality
  • pandemic


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