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Yale’s COVID-19 inpatient protocol: Hydroxychloroquine plus/minus tocilizumab


A moving target

Yale’s approach is similar in confirmed COVID-19 cases already in respiratory failure, including those on mechanical ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation: hydroxychloroquine and possibly tocilizumab, but also methylprednisolone if clinical status worsens or inflammatory markers go up. The steroid is for additional help battling the cytokine storm, Dr. Desai said.

The degree of anticoagulation in the ICU is based on d-dimer levels or suspicion or confirmation of venous thromboembolism. Telemetry is monitored closely for QTc prolongation, and point of care ultrasound is considered to check left ventricular function in the setting of markedly increased cardiac troponin levels, ECG abnormalities, or hemodynamic instability.

Previous versions of Yale’s algorithm included HIV protease inhibitors, but they were pulled after a recent trial found no benefit. Frequency of monitoring was also reduced from every 8 hours because it didn’t improve decision making and put staff collecting specimens at risk (N Engl J Med. 2020 Mar 18. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2001282).

Anticoagulation was added to newer versions after it became clear that COVID-19 is prothrombotic. “We are still seeing thrombotic events that might warrant further intensification,” Dr. Desai said.

Newer algorithms also have Yale watching QTc intervals more closely. It’s unclear if the prolongation risk is caused by the infection or hydroxychloroquine.

On April 24, the Food and Drug Administration reiterated it’s concern about the arrhythmia risk with hydroxychloroquine and emphasized that it should only be used for COVID-19 patients when they are hospitalized and it is not feasible for them to participate in a clinical trial.

To help keep patients safe, ECGs from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases are now first in line to be reviewed by cardiologists across Yale hospitals to pick up prolongations and notify providers as soon as possible. Hydroxychloroquine is held if there are no other explanations.

Cardiologists are on the fontline at Yale and elsewhere, Dr. Desai said, because heart complications like myocarditis and arrhythmias emerged early as common problems in hospitalized patients.

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This article was updated with the latest treatment algorithm on 5/6/2020.


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