Electrolyte imbalances as poor prognostic markers in COVID-19: a systemic review and meta-analysis.

Journal of endocrinological investigation. 2023;46(2):235-259

Plain language summary

Salt imbalances in individuals with Covid-19 are highly prevalent, however it is not fully understood if they determine whether a patient has a good or bad prognosis. This systematic review and meta-analysis of 28 observational studies aimed to determine the associations and prognostic value of different salt imbalances in individuals with Covid-19. The results showed that out of several salt imbalances analysed, high and low sodium levels and low calcium levels could predict poor outcomes in those with Covid-19. High sodium levels were particularly indicative, but this was not due to the relationship between high sodium and inflammation in the body and causal reasons remained undiscovered. It was concluded that sodium imbalances and low calcium levels were associated with poor clinical outcomes in individuals with Covid-19. This study could be used by healthcare professionals to understand that correcting these imbalances may be of benefit to individuals with Covid-19.


PURPOSE Serum electrolyte imbalances are highly prevalent in COVID-19 patients. However, their associations with COVID-19 outcomes are inconsistent, and of unknown prognostic value. We aim to systematically clarify the associations and prognostic accuracy of electrolyte imbalances (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and phosphate) in predicting poor COVID-19 clinical outcome. METHODS PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Library were searched. Odds of poor clinical outcome (a composite of mortality, intensive-care unit (ICU) admission, need for respiratory support and acute respiratory distress syndrome) were pooled using mixed-effects models. The associated prognostic sensitivity, positive and negative likelihood ratios (LR + , LR-) and predictive values (PPV, NPV; assuming 25% pre-test probability), and area under the curve (AUC) were computed. RESULTS We included 28 observational studies from 953 records with low to moderate risk-of-bias. Hyponatremia (OR = 2.08, 95% CI = 1.48-2.94, I2 = 93%, N = 8), hypernatremia (OR = 4.32, 95% CI = 3.17-5.88, I2 = 45%, N = 7) and hypocalcemia (OR = 3.31, 95% CI = 2.24-4.88, I2 = 25%, N = 6) were associated with poor COVID-19 outcome. These associations remained significant on adjustment for covariates such as demographics and comorbidities. Hypernatremia was 97% specific in predicting poor outcome (LR + 4.0, PPV = 55%, AUC = 0.80) despite no differences in CRP and IL-6 levels between hypernatremic and normonatremic patients. Hypocalcemia was 76% sensitive in predicting poor outcome (LR- 0.44, NPV = 87%, AUC = 0.71). Overall quality of evidence ranged from very low to moderate. CONCLUSION Hyponatremia, hypernatremia and hypocalcemia are associated with poor COVID-19 clinical outcome. Hypernatremia is 97% specific for a poor outcome, and the association is independent of inflammatory marker levels. Further studies should evaluate if correcting these imbalances help improve clinical outcome.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Electrolyte imbalance
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Hypocalcaemia ; Hyponatraemia