Patients with COVID-19 can require critical care for prolonged periods. Patients with persistent critical Illness can have complex recovery trajectories, but this has not been studied for patients with COVID-19. We examined the prevalence, risk factors, and long-term outcomes of critically ill patients with COVID-19 and persistent critical illness.


This was a national cohort study of all adults admitted to Scottish critical care units with COVID-19 from March 1, 2020 to September 4, 20. Persistent critical illness was defined as a critical care length of stay (LOS) of ≥10 days. Outcomes included 1-yr mortality and hospital readmission after critical care discharge. Fine and Gray competing risk analysis was used to identify factors associated with persistent critical Illness with death as a competing risk.


A total of 2236 patients with COVID-19 were admitted to critical care; 1045 patients were identified as developing persistent critical Illness, comprising 46.7% of the cohort but using 80.6% of bed-days. Patients with persistent critical illness used more organ support, had longer post-critical care LOS, and longer total hospital LOS. Persistent critical illness was not significantly associated with long-term mortality or hospital readmission. Risk factors associated with increased hazard of persistent critical illness included age, illness severity, organ support on admission, and fewer comorbidities.


Almost half of all patients with COVID-19 admitted to critical care developed persistent critical illness, with high resource use in critical care and beyond. However, persistent critical illness was not associated with significantly worse long-term outcomes compared with patients who were critically ill for shorter periods.


This content is not covered by the Open Government Licence. Please see source record or item for information on rights and permissions.

Cite as

Blayney, M., Stewart, N., Kaye, C., Puxty, K., Chan Seem, R., Donaldson, L., Haddow, C., Hall, R., Martin, C., Paton, M., Lone, N. & McPeake, J. 2022, 'Prevalence, characteristics, and longer-term outcomes of patients with persistent critical illness attributable to COVID-19 in Scotland: a national cohort study', British Journal of Anaesthesia. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bja.2022.03.017

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 01 October 2022
Was this page helpful?