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Who is the “typical” corona patient in intensive care? And is the treatment better now than during the first wave?

There are now more than 7,000 covid patients in hospital, nearly 1,500 of whom are in intensive care. This puts us well above the peak of the first wave. But who is actually the “typical” intensive care patient? Is it true that elderly people and overweight people in particular get very ill? And is the treatment better now than during the first wave?

In recent months it has often been said that overweight people in particular end up in intensive care. The typical profile: a man with a Burgundian lifestyle and a firm belly.

Björn Stessel, anesthetist and intensivist at the Jessa Hospital in Hasselt, is not convinced. He doubts whether there is a link with obesity. “We didn’t really see that link in our hospital,” he says. “The average BMI was between 27 and 28 during the first wave. We only speak of obesity at a BMI of more than 30. I therefore have doubts about the role of obesity. In intensive care, I see a kind of cross-section of the Belgian population. Yes, there is often some overweight, but no more than you would expect. ”

Dominique Benoit, head of intensive care at UZ Gent, sees similar figures. “We did the calculation for our patients this week. 60% are slightly overweight, but only 10% are obese. So you cannot say that only obese people are at risk. That would be a false signal.”

There are also a lot of people who are not overweight in the intensive care unit. This confirms Kenneth Coenye, chief physician at the Sint-Jansziekenhuis in Brussels. “We currently have a 53-year-old patient with no medical history. He has no diabetes, is not overweight and he was only taking some blood pressure medication. Yet that man is now on intensive care.”

Coenye adds that this type of patient is rather rare. “We rarely see people end up in intensive care without an additional risk factor. Many patients are overweight or diabetic. These are clearly the two main culprits.”

Why is it that in some hospitals they see more people who are overweight than in other hospitals? That probably has to do with the environment. “We work in a metropolitan context,” says Coenye. “There are simply more people with overweight and diabetes.”

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