Introduction: The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unprecedented rates of patients requiring intubation and ventilation over a short period of time. The authors present 3-month data on airway, voice and swallow outcomes for this cohort to better understand the impact of COVID-19 critical illness on laryngotracheal morbidity.
Methods: An observational cohort study was performed on all patients discharged following critical illness at our tertiary institution over a 2-month period (1st March 2020 - 30th April 2020). Patients were stratified on the basis of primary diagnosis: COVID-19 pneumonitis, Non-COVID-19 respiratory failure and non-respiratory. Our primary outcome measure was reported airway, voice, and swallow dysfunction during inpatient admission and on 6-12 week Critical Illness Recovery Clinic follow up. Endoscopic findings of patients referred onward to our Multidisciplinary Laryngology-Speech Therapy Clinic were recorded.
Results: 141 patients were included in our study. During inpatient admission there were no statistically significant differences in reported rates of airway, voice, or swallow dysfunction. In Critical Illness Recovery Clinic, there were markedly higher rates of reported airway, voice and swallow dysfunction in the COVID-19 pneumonitis cohort, although these rates only reached statistical significance in respect to airway outcomes (airway p=0.038, voice p=0.064, swallow p=0.240). 100% of patients reviewed to date in the Laryngology-Speech Therapy Clinic following COVID-19 critical illness had clinically significant laryngeal pathology.
Conclusion: Our data highlights an impending surge in COVID-19 related laryngotracheal morbidity. Robust, prospective screening and clear referral pathways for all patients following COVID-19 critical illness are essential to identifying and managing this cohort.