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Factors Associated With Hospitalization and Death After COVID‐19 Diagnosis Among Patients With Rheumatic Disease: An Analysis of Veterans Affairs Data



Individuals with autoimmune rheumatic disease (RD) are considered to be at increased risk for infection. However, few US population-based studies have assessed whether these patients are at increased risk of hospitalization or death due to COVID-19 compared with those without RD.


We performed a retrospective cohort study using national Veterans Affairs Health Care System data for individuals who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Outcomes of interest were hospitalization or death due to any cause within 30 days of COVID-19 diagnosis. Outcomes were compared among veterans with RD and those without RD by using propensity score matching (PSM) and mixed-effects multivariate logistic regression.


Of 26,116 veterans with COVID-19, 501 (1.9%) had an underlying RD. Prior to matching, patients with RD were more likely to have poor outcomes compared with controls (37.7% vs. 28.5% hospitalized; 6.4% vs. 4.5% died). In the PSM analysis, RD was not a significant predictor for poor outcomes; however, patients with prescriptions for glucocorticoids had increased odds of poor outcomes in a dose-dependent manner (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] for hospitalization or death: 1.33 [1.20-1.48] for doses >0 and ≤10 mg/day; 1.29 [1.09-1.52] for doses >10 mg/day).


Among US veterans with COVID-19, we did not find a significant association between RD and hospitalization or death. Poor outcomes appear to be mostly driven by age and other comorbidities, similar to the general veteran population. However, we observed an increased risk for poor outcomes among patients who received glucocorticoids, even at daily doses less than or equal to 10 mg.

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