Previous research has found a connection between comorbidities, or pre-existing conditions, and an increased risk of death among COVID-19 patients. However, a new study by the Department of Veterans Affairs suggests certain types of pre-existing conditions may pose greater risks for death than others for COVID patients.

In the largest study to date following patients with COVID-19 to predict mortality, VA researchers from New Mexico studied the COVID outcomes of 347,220 COVID patients treated at VA facilities as of September 2021. Through their research, they developed a new prediction model, PHDeathDX, to estimate the likelihood of death from COVID-19.

“We demonstrate the clear advantage of using an unrestricted set of pre-existing conditions to model COVID-19 mortality, as models using conventional comorbidity indices often assign little weight or usually do not include some of the highest risk conditions; the same is true of conditions associated with COVID-19 severity,” the authors wrote. “Our findings suggest that it is risky to pick comorbidities for analysis without a systematic review of all those experienced by the cohort.” 

The researchers evaluated COVID-19 patients with a variety of different pre-existing conditions to evaluate which patients were most likely to die from COVID. They found hypertension and certain types of neurological degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia were among the preexisting conditions that posed greater risk of death among COVID-patients.

“Hypertension was the most important independent risk factor for death and represented a greater threat than coronary artery disease,” the authors wrote. “Degenerative neurologic diseases were prominently represented at the top of the list, while malignancies comprised the bulk of high-risk conditions.”

The study appeared in the online journal Biology Method and Protocols.