SARS-CoV-2 in hospitalized children and youth

Clinical syndromes and predictors of disease severity



Clinical questions: What are the demographics and clinical features of pediatric severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) syndromes, and which admitting demographics and clinical features are predictive of disease severity?

Dr. Anika Kumar

Background: In children, SARS-CoV-2 causes respiratory disease and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) as well as other clinical manifestations. The authors of this study chose to address the gap of identifying characteristics for severe disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, including respiratory disease, MIS-C and other manifestations.

Study design: Retrospective and prospective cohort analysis of hospitalized children

Setting: Participating hospitals in Tri-State Pediatric COVID-19 Consortium, including hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Synopsis: The authors identified hospitalized patients 22 years old or younger who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test or met the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ MIS-C case definition. For comparative analysis, patients were divided into a respiratory disease group (based on the World Health Organization’s criteria for COVID-19), MIS-C group or other group (based on the primary reason for hospitalization).

The authors included 281 patients in the study. 51% of the patients presented with respiratory disease, 25% with MIS-C and 25% with other symptoms, including gastrointestinal, or fever. 51% of all patients were Hispanic and 23% were non-Black Hispanic. The most common pre-existing comorbidities amongst all groups were obesity (34%) and asthma (14%).

Patients with respiratory disease had a median age of 14 years while those with MIS-C had a median age of 7 years. Patients more commonly identified as non-Hispanic Black in the MIS-C group vs the respiratory group (35% vs. 18%). Obesity and medical complexity were more prevalent in the respiratory group relative to the MIS-C group. 75% of patients with MIS-C had gastrointestinal symptoms. 44% of respiratory patients had a chest radiograph with bilateral infiltrates on admission, and 18% or respiratory patients required invasive mechanical ventilation. The most common complications in the respiratory group were acute respiratory distress syndrome (17%) and acute kidney injury (11%), whereas shock (35%) and cardiac dysfunction (25%) were the most common complications in the MIS-C group. The median length of stay for all patients was 4 days (IQR 2-8 days).

Patients with MIS-C were more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) but all deaths (7 patients) occurred in the respiratory group. 40% of patients with respiratory disease, 56% of patients with MIS-C, and 6% of other patients met the authors’ definition of severe disease (ICU admission > 48 hours). For the respiratory group, younger age, obesity, increasing white blood cell count, hypoxia, and bilateral infiltrates on chest radiograph were independent predictors of severe disease based on multivariate analyses. For the MIS-C group, lower absolute lymphocyte count and increasing CRP at admission were independent predictors of severity.

Bottom line: Mortality in pediatric patients is low. Ethnicity and race were not predictive of disease severity in this model, even though 51% of the patients studied were Hispanic and 23% were non-Hispanic Black. Severity of illness for patients with respiratory disease was found to be associated with younger age, obesity, increasing white blood cell count, hypoxia, and bilateral infiltrates on chest radiograph. Severity of illness in patients with MIS-C was associated with lower absolute lymphocyte count and increasing CRP.

Citation: Fernandes DM, et al. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 clinical syndromes and predictors of disease severity in hospitalized children and youth. J Pediatr. 2020 Nov 14;S0022-3476(20):31393-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.11.016.

Dr. Kumar is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University and a pediatric hospitalist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. She is the pediatric editor of The Hospitalist.

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