Blood Test May Reveal Which COVID-19 Patients Are More Likely to Die

A recently published study in the JAMA Network Open has claimed that COVID-19 patients with elevated Red Cells Distribution Width (RDW) are at increased mortality risk.

An RDW blood test measures the amount of red blood cell variation in volume and size. Red blood cells normally have a diameter of 6 to 8 micrometers. Any aberration from this range results in an elevated RDW, which puts an individual at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.


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Over the course of the study titled “Association of Red Blood Cell Distribution Width with Mortality Risk in Hospitalized Adults with SARS-CoV-2 Infection,” researchers evaluated the RDW blood tests of 1600 individuals hospitalized following the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Overall, 31% of the Coronavirus patients that had elevated RDW at the time of admission to the hospitals died against 11% of those with normal RDW.

This means Coronavirus patients with high RDW are 2.7 times more likely to die in comparison to the patients with normal RDW.


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Dr. John Higgins, a pathologist, an associate professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School, and lead investigator of the study, has said:

We wanted to help find ways to identify high-risk COVID patients as early and as easily as possible — who is likely to become severely ill and may benefit from aggressive interventions, and which hospitalized patients are likely to get worse most quickly.

The researchers are now planning to expand the study to the next phase in which they will ascertain the reasons behind the strong correlation between an elevated RDW and an increased mortality rate.