Purpose: Immunomodulatory therapies have shown beneficial effects in patients with severe COVID-19. Patients with hypercytokinemia might benefit from removal of inflammatory mediators via hemadsorption.
Methods: Single-center prospective randomized trial at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Germany). Patients with confirmed COVID-19, refractory shock (norepinephrine ≥0.2 μg/kg/min to maintain a mean arterial pressure ≥ 65 mmHg), IL-6≥500 ng/l and an indication for renal replacement therapy (RRT) or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) were included. Patients received either hemadsorption therapy (HT) or standard medical therapy (SMT). For HT, a CytoSorb® adsorber was used for up to 5 days and was replaced every 18–24 hours. The primary endpoint was sustained hemodynamic improvement (norepinephrine ≤0.05 µg/kg/min≥24h). Secondary endpoints included 28-day mortality, SOFA, and reduction of IL-6, PCT, and MR-proADM.
Results: Of 242 screened patients, 24 were randomized and assigned to either HT (N=12) or SMT (N=12). Both groups had similar severity as assessed by SAPS II (median 75 points HT group vs. 79 SMT group, p=0.590) and SOFA (17 vs. 16, p=0.551). At randomization, 22 (92%) patients were on RRT and 11 (46%) had vv-ECMO. Median IL-6 levels were 2269 (IQR 948–3679) and 3747 (1301–5415) ng/l in the HT and SMT group at baseline, respectively (p=0.378). Serum IL-6 reduction in the first 24h of treatment compared between both groups was 83% vs. 46% (p=0.235). Shock resolution (primary endpoint) was reached in 33% (4/12) vs. 17% (2/12) in the HT and SMT group, respectively (p=0.640). 28-day mortality was 58% (7/12) in the HT compared to 67% (8/12) in the SMT group (p=1.0).
Conclusion: HT was associated with a non-significant trend towards clinical improvement within the intervention period including reduction of IL-6 levels and shock resolution. In selected patients, HT might therefore be an option for stabilization and bridge to transfer and decision. (Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04344080, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04344080, trial registration date 04/14/2020)