Digestive Manifestations in Patients Hospitalized with COVID-19

Background: The prevalence and significance of digestive manifestations in COVID-19 remain uncertain. Methods: Consecutive patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were identified across a geographically diverse alliance of medical centers in North America. Data pertaining to baseline characteristics, symptomatology, laboratory assessment, imaging, and endoscopic findings from the time of symptom onset until discharge or death were manually abstracted from electronic health records to characterize the prevalence, spectrum, and severity of digestive manifestations. Regression analyses were performed to evaluate the association between digestive manifestations and severe outcomes related to COVID-19. Results: A total of 1992 patients across 36 centers met eligibility criteria and were included. Overall, 53% of patients experienced at least one gastrointestinal symptom at any time during their illness, most commonly diarrhea (34%), nausea (27%), vomiting (16%), and abdominal pain (11%). In 74% of cases, gastrointestinal symptoms were judged to be mild. In total, 35% of patients developed an abnormal alanine aminotransferase or total bilirubin level; these were elevated to less than 5 times the upper limit of normal in 77% of cases. After adjusting for potential confounders, the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms at any time (odds ratio 0.93, 95% confidence interval 0.76-1.15) or liver test abnormalities on admission (odds ratio 1.31, 95% confidence interval 0.80-2.12) were not independently associated with mechanical ventilation or death. Conclusions: Among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, gastrointestinal symptoms and liver test abnormalities were common but the majority were mild and their presence was not associated with a more severe clinical course.

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