Intensive care unit admissions with and without COVID-19 in Finland from 2017 to 2021: a retrospective register-based study

Saara Jäntti, Ville Ponkilainen, Ilari Kuitunen, Mikko M. Uimonen, Tuomas Huttunen, Ville M. Mattila

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Abstract

Background: After the COVID-19 pandemic started, critical care resources were expanded in Finland to manage a possible surge in patients requiring intensive care. The aim of this study was to evaluate the incidence of overall ICU admissions, patient diagnoses, characteristics, and length of stay during the pandemic. Methods: This retrospective hospital register-based study was conducted in two large and one mid-size Finnish public hospitals. The required data were collected from ICU patient information systems and all adult patients were included. Monthly and yearly incidences with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were counted per 100 000 persons-years by Poisson exact method and compared by incidence rate ratios (IRR). Results: A total of 4407 admissions to ICUs for any cause occurred during 2020. In 2021, this figure was 4931. During the reference years (2017–2019), the mean number of admissions to ICU was 4781. In 2020 and 2021, the proportion of patients requiring intensive care due to COVID-19 was only 3%. The incidence of all-cause ICU admissions decreased during the lockdown in 2020 when compared to the reference years. Before the start of the lockdown in February 2020, the IRR of all-cause ICU admissions was 1.02 (CI: 0.89 to 1.18). During the lockdown period, however, the IRR of all-cause ICU admissions decreased to 0.78 (CI: 0.67 to 0.90) in March. When the lockdown ended, the incidence rebounded to the same level as before the lockdown. However, in 2021, the incidence of ICU admissions remained at the same level when compared to the reference years. The most prominent changes occurred in the incidence of diseases of the nervous system, which includes epilepsy and seizures and transient cerebral ischemic attacks, in diseases of the respiratory system, and neoplasms. Conclusions: According to the findings of this study, the incidence of all-cause ICU admissions decreased after the lockdown was implemented in 2020. Furthermore, the percentage of patients requiring intensive care due to COVID-19 in Finland was only 3% in 2020 and 2021. These findings may serve to help in the planning and allocating of ICU resources during future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number251
Number of pages7
JournalBmc Anesthesiology
Volume23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Critical care
  • Intensive care unit

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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