The sickest Covid-19 patients are now more likely to survive a stint in intensive care, a new study suggests.
Experts, led by researchers from Bath, said that a fall in the death rate may suggest that “we are coping better with Covid-19”.
The new study, published in the journal Anaesthesia, examined a range of studies across three continents.
Across Europe, Asia and North America the death rate for ICU patients fell from almost 60% at the end of March to 42% at the end of May.
It is hoped that survival rates will improve further still thanks to the groundbreaking British study on Dexamethasone, with early findings published in June.
The cheap anti-inflammatory drug has been found to reduce the risk of death significantly in Covid-19 patients on ventilation by as much as 35% and patients on oxygen by 20%.
The current study, by professor Tim Cook, consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine at Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and colleagues, examined data on 24 studies on ICU death rates concerning more than 10,000 patients.
Across all studies examined, deaths rates at the end of may among Covid-19 ICU patients stood at 41.6% at the end of May – a fall from 59.5% at the end of March.
Deaths rates did not differ significantly across the continents compared in the study.
The decrease in death rates may be attributable to a number of factors including rapid learning about the disease and ICU admission criteria changing over time, the researchers said.
The authors point put that their study is also more likely to reflect data on patients who spend long spells in intensive care – in the UK one in five ICU stays (20%) were more than 28 days and 9% were more than 42 days.
They conclude: “This systematic review and meta-analysis of ICU outcome in patients with Covid-19 found an in-ICU mortality rate of 41.6% across international studies.
“There were no significant effects of geographical location, but reported ICU mortality fell over time. Optimistically, as the pandemic progresses, we may be coping better with Covid-19.”
Prof Cook, who is also an honorary professor in anaesthesia at the University of Bristol, added: “The important message is that as the pandemic has progressed and various factors combine, survival of patients admitted to ICU has significantly improved.”