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Critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) present with hypoxaemia and are mechanically ventilated to support gas exchange. We performed a retrospective, observational study of blood gas analyses (n = 3518) obtained from patients with COVID-19 to investigate changes in haemoglobin oxygen (Hb-O2 ) affinity. Calculated oxygen tension at half-saturation (p50 ) was on average (±SD) 3·3 (3·13) mmHg lower than the normal p50 value (23·4 vs. 26·7 mmHg; P < 0·0001). Compared to an unmatched historic control of patients with other causes of severe respiratory failure, patients with COVID-19 had a significantly higher Hb-O2 affinity (mean [SD] p50 23·4 [3·13] vs. 24·6 [5.4] mmHg; P < 0·0001). We hypothesise that, due to the long disease process, acclimatisation to hypoxaemia could play a role.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Haematol

Publication Date



haemoglobin, infection, oxygen affinity