Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Researchers Develop Important New Criteria to Diagnose Inflammatory Process in COVID-19 Patients to Reduce Their Risk of Dying


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/01/2020 --Intermountain Healthcare researchers have developed a new clinical tool to accurately identify and diagnose COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of developing a serious inflammatory condition known as hyperinflammatory syndrome that can damage the lungs and other organs.

The new tool is a diagnostic clinical score that is used to determine whether patients with the virus are at increased risk of developing the condition, also sometimes referred to as a "cytokine storm." This condition causes the immune system to react in an inappropriate and excessive way causing damage to organs.

Diagnosing this hyperinflammatory syndrome is very important. With the new scoring diagnostic criteria, clinicians can now identify patients early and ideally prescribe treatments before the condition progresses and causes patients to deteriorate to critical levels.

Researchers studied the accuracy of the diagnostic tool as part of a new study that was published this week in the British medical journal, The Lancet Rheumatology.

For the study, researchers applied the new cHIS diagnostic score to 299 patients admitted to Intermountain hospitals in Utah with severe COVID-19. They found that that the criteria accurately identify patients who are at high risk for deteriorating clinically and requiring high oxygen supplementation, going on the ventilator or dying.

Researchers also found that COVID-19 patients with elevated cHIS criteria were four times more likely to progress to need the ventilator for respiratory support

"The prognostic value of the cHIS score is important because it can help doctors identify patients who are at risk of progressing to much more severe disease before it happens," said Brandon Webb, MD, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare and principal investigator of the study.

Samuel Brown, MD, a critical care physician at Intermountain and co-investigator on the study, says the knowing which COVID-19 patients who are vulnerable to hyperinflammatory syndrome, will also help enhance treatment in other ways.

"The cHIS score is also important in two other ways," explained Dr. Brown. "First, it will help us to design clinical trials targeting the patients for whom new drugs are most likely to work, and secondly, it allows us to now tailor our treatment strategy to give the right drugs to the right patients who are most likely to benefit."

In an accompanying editorial published with the study in The Lancet Rheumatology, written by Drs. Randy Cron, Grant Schulert, and Rachel Tatersall, they praised the work done by the Intermountain research team.

"Dr. Webb and colleagues are the first to report cytokine storm syndrome clinical criteria specific to COVID-19 in the form of cHIS," the editorial said. "Importantly, these criteria are relatively standard assessments that are readily available, timely, and not cost-prohibitive for most countries. These criteria will need validation, but for now, should help clinicians to recognize cytokine storm syndrome in the setting of COVID-19 for early initiation of potentially life-saving immunotherapy."

Members of the Intermountain research team: Webb, Ithan Peltan, Paul Jensen, Daanish Hoda, Bradley Hunter, Aaron Silver, Nathan Starr, Whitney Buckel, Nancy Grisel, Erika Hummel, Gregory Snow, Dave Morris, Eddie Stenehjem, Raj Srivastava and Samuel M Brown.

Link to Study Published in The Lancet Rheumatology

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see