High-value laboratory testing for hospitalized COVID-19 patients: A review

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We present here an evidence-based review of the utility, timing, and indications for laboratory test use in the domains of inflammation, cardiology, hematology, nephrology and co-infection for clinicians managing the care of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Levels of IL-6, CRP, absolute lymphocyte count, neutrophils and neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio obtained upon admission may help predict the severity of COVID-19. Elevated lactate dehydrogenase, ferritin, aspartate aminotransferase, and ᴅ-dimer are associated with severe illness and mortality. Elevated cardiac troponin at hospital admission can alert clinicians to patients at risk for cardiac complications. Elevated proBNP may help distinguish a cardiac complication from noncardiac etiologies. Evaluation for co-infection is typically unnecessary in nonsevere cases but is essential in severe COVID-19, intensive care unit patients, and immunocompromised patients. Lay abstract: Doctors managing the complex care of individuals with COVID-19 need timely evidence to guide which lab tests to send to predict outcomes and prevent and treat COVID-19 complications involving the heart, blood clots, the kidney, and other infections that occur during the hospital course. Several lab tests such as IL-6, CRP and white blood cell subset counts may help predict the severity of COVID-19 during the patient’s hospital course if obtained when the patient first presents to the hospital. Other tests such as lactate dehydrogenase, ferritin and aspartate aminotransferase are also associated with severe illness and mortality but have less evidence for their utility beyond IL-6, CRP and other tests. A test related to blood coagulation, D-dimer, is also associated with COVID-19 severity, and it may be used if the patient is suspected of having a blood clot. Two heart biomarkers – cardiac troponin and proBNP – may help doctors diagnose and manage heart-related complications of COVID-19. Patients in the hospital with COVID-19 may be susceptible to other infections, but testing for these is most useful in patients with severe disease, such as those in the intensive care unit. Specific recommendations for testing for viral, bacterial and fungal infections are presented here. The judicious use of laboratory testing can help identify patients at high risk for severe or critical COVID-19 and aid in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of common COVID-19 complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-705
Number of pages15
JournalFuture Virology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • COVID-19
  • CRP
  • IL-6
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • high value care
  • inpatient
  • laboratory test
  • labs
  • troponin
  • ᴅ-dimer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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