Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line


At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions


Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists


‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam


‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6

Most Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients Survive with Respiratory Failure Treatment Strategy, Research Finds

Physicians examined patient outcomes under current treatment guidelines.
Physicians examined patient outcomes under current treatment guidelines. By Keri D Mabry
By Simon J. Levien, Crimson Staff Writer

The majority of critically ill COVID-19 patients survive under current treatment guidelines for respiratory failure, clinicians at two Harvard teaching hospitals found.

The team of doctors — led by Massachusetts General Hospital pulmonologist and Harvard Medical School professor Charles C. Hardin — announced the findings in a press release Wednesday after publishing their research in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

In the study, the nine-person team monitored and treated 66 critically ill and intubated COVID-19 patients at MGH and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for more than two weeks.

The most severe COVID-19 cases can result in a condition known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a type of life-threatening respiratory failure causing excess fluid buildup in the lung’s air sacs, the researchers found. They treated these patients with guideline-supported protocols for ARDS respiratory failure.

The death rate among COVID-19 patients treated under those ARDS protocols was 16.7 percent — which is lower than the rate reported by other hospitals, according to the press release. In intensive care units, 75.8 percent of patients on mechanical ventilators were discharged after a median follow-up time of just over a month.

“The good news is we have been studying ARDS for over 50 years and we have a number of effective evidenced-based therapies with which to treat it,” Hardin said in the press release. “We applied these treatments — such as prone ventilation where patients are turned onto their stomachs — to patients in our study and they responded to them as we would expect patients with ARDS to respond.”

As hospitals worldwide have shared anecdotal and one-off treatment strategies, the findings point to a more robust treatment strategy for critically ill COVID-19 patients, according to the release.

“Based on this, we recommend that clinicians provide evidence-based ARDS treatments to patients with respiratory failure due to COVID-19 and await standardized clinical trials before contemplating novel therapies,” Medical School instructor and study co-author Jehan Alladina said in the press release.

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

ResearchHarvard Medical SchoolScienceMedicineScience NewsCoronavirusCoronavirus Feature