Silent Hypoxia in COVID-19: A Case Series

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is an ongoing global crisis challenging the worldwide healthcare systems. Many patients present with a mismatch of profound hypoxemia and few signs of respiratory distress (i.e., silent hypoxemia). This particular clinical presentation is often cited, but data are limited. Main Body: We describe dyspnea sensation as assessed by using the BORG scale in pulmonary patients admitted to the emergency room during a 4-week period and transferred to the respiratory department of Siloah Hospital, Hannover, Germany. From October 1 to November 1, 2020, 82 patients with hypoxemia defined as oxygen demand to achieve an oxygen saturation (SpO2) ?92% were included. In 45/82 (55%) patients, SARS-CoV-2 was detected by PCR on admission. Among non-COVID patients, exacerbation of COPD was the main diagnosis (15/37, 41%). All subjects rated their perceived dyspnea using the modified Borg CR10 scale. Patients in the non-COVID group suffered from more dyspnea on the modified Borg CR10 scale (median 1, IQR: 0–2 vs. median 5, IQR: 3–6, p #x3c; 0.001). In multivariate analysis, “silent hypoxemia” as defined by the dyspnea Borg CR10 scale ?5 was independently associated with COVID-19 and presence of severe hypocapnia with an odds ratio of 0.221 (95% confidence interval 0.054, 0.907, p 0.036). Conclusion: Among pulmonary patients with acute hypoxemia defined as oxygen demand, patients suffering from COVID-19 experience less dyspnea compared to non-COVID patients. “Silent” hypoxemia was more common in COVID-19 patients. Respiration