Data for predicting which patients with pandemic influenza A (H1N1) infection are likely to run a complicated course are sparse. We retrospectively studied whether the admission serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels can serve as a predictor of illness severity.
Included were all consecutive adult patients who presented to the emergency department (ED) between May-December, 2009 with a flu-like illness, a confirmed diagnosis of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) infection and a serum CRP level measured within 24 hours of presentation. Patients with a proven additional concurrent acute illness (e.g., bacteremia) were excluded. We used the ROC curve analysis, Kaplan-Meier curves and the Cox proportional hazard model to evaluate the predictive ability of CRP as a prognostic factor.
Seventeen (9%) of the 191 enrolled patients were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), of whom eight (4%) required mechanical ventilation and three (2%) died. The median admission serum CRP levels were significantly higher among patients who required subsequent ICU care and mechanical ventilation than among patients who did not (123 mg/L and 112 mg/L vs. 40 mg/L, p < .001 and 43 mg/L, p = .017, respectively). A Cox proportional hazard model identified admission serum CRP levels and auscultatory findings over the lungs as independent prognostic factors for ICU admission. Admission serum CRP levels were the only independent prognostic factor for mechanical ventilation. Thirty days after presenting to the ED, none of the patients with admission serum CRP level <28 mg/L (lower tertile) required either ICU admission or mechanical ventilation. At the same time point, 19% of the patients with admission serum CRP level ≥70 mg/L (upper tertile) needed to be admitted to the ICU and 8% of the same upper tertile group required mechanical ventilation. The differences in the rates between the lower vs. upper tertile groups were significant (Log-Rank p < .001 for ICU and p < .024 for mechanical ventilation).