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Red Blood Cell Distribution Width, Mortality Tied in COVID-19

Elevated RDW and increase in RDW during hospitalization linked to increased mortality risk

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) — For patients with COVID-19, elevated red blood cell distribution width (RDW) is associated with increased mortality risk, according to a study published online Sept. 23 in JAMA Network Open.

Brody H. Foy, D.Phil., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined the association between mortality risk and elevated RDW at hospital admission and during hospitalization in 1,641 patients with COVID-19 admitted to one of four hospitals.

The researchers found that among patients of all ages, elevated RDW (>14.5 percent) was associated with increased mortality risk. For the entire cohort, the relative risk (RR) was 2.73, with a mortality rate of 11 and 31 percent for those with normal and elevated RDW, respectively. The RRs were 5.25 for patients younger than 50 years, 2.90 for those aged 50 to 59 years, 3.96 for those aged 60 to 69 years, 1.45 for those aged 70 to 79 years, and 1.59 for those aged 80 years and older. In models adjusted for age, D-dimer level, absolute lymphocyte count, and common comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension, RDW was associated with mortality risk (hazard ratio, 1.09 per 0.5 percent RDW increase and 2.01 for an RDW >14.5 versus ≤14.5 percent). Mortality was higher for patients whose RDW increased during hospitalization compared with those whose RDW did not change.

“Such discoveries could point to new treatment strategies or identify better markers of disease severity,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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