Risk factors associated with hospital admission in COVID-19 patients initially admitted to an observation unit

Frances M. Russell, Alfred Wang, Robert R. Ehrman, Jake Jacobs, Alex Croft, Caleb Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: No set guidelines to guide disposition decisions from the emergency department (ED) in patients with COVID-19 exist. Our goal was to determine characteristics that identify patients at high risk for adverse outcomes who may need admission to the hospital instead of an observation unit. Methods: We retrospectively enrolled 116 adult patients with COVID-19 admitted to an ED observation unit. We included patients with bilateral infiltrates on chest imaging, COVID-19 testing performed, and/or COVID-19 suspected as the primary diagnosis. The primary outcome was hospital admission. We assessed risk factors associated with this outcome using univariate and multivariable logistic regression. Results: Of 116 patients, 33 or 28% (95% confidence interval [CI] 20–37%) required admission from the observation unit. On multivariable logistic regression analysis, we found that hypoxia defined as room-air oxygen saturation < 95% (OR 3.11, CI 1.23–7.88) and bilateral infiltrates on chest radiography (OR 5.57, CI 1.66–18.96) were independently associated with hospital admission, after adjusting for age. Two three-factor composite predictor models, age > 48 years, bilateral infiltrates, hypoxia, and Hispanic race, bilateral infiltrates, hypoxia yield an OR for admission of 4.99 (CI 1.50–16.65) with an AUC of 0.59 (CI 0.51–0.67) and 6.78 (CI 2.11–21.85) with an AUC of 0.62 (CI 0.54–0.71), respectively. Conclusions: Over 1/4 of suspected COVID-19 patients admitted to an ED observation unit ultimately required admission to the hospital. Risk factors associated with admission include hypoxia, bilateral infiltrates on chest radiography, or the combination of these two factors plus either age > 48 years or Hispanic race.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-343
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Adverse outcomes
  • COVID-19
  • Observation unit
  • Risk stratification


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