CHENNAI: The second wave of the pandemic has had a crippling effect. We are now witness to high mortality and morbidity across the country. While the first wave impacted the older generation, the second wave has claimed lives of people in the middle and younger age groups.
COVID-19 infection is associated with a multisystem inflammatory syndrome with predominant effects on the respiratory system. The most dominant feature resulting out of impaired pulmonary mechanics and insufficient arterial oxygen supply is stress on the oxygen transport pathway. Acute patients are classified into mild, moderate and severe categories, in which respiratory symptoms range from mild cough to pneumonia with drop in oxygen saturation. Based on clinical findings, patients might require conservative medical management or oxygen support or even a ventilator. Majority of patients with Covid have benefited from physiotherapy care which has been shown to assist in faster recovery.
Physiotherapists play a key role in improving the ventilation/ perfusion mismatch, reducing its impact on the oxygen transport pathway in respiratory care. Not all breathing exercises or positioning techniques work for all patients. It is a myth that every patient requires chest clearance or deep breathing techniques to stabilise their condition. Based on the severity of the disease, and clinical presentation of each patient, treatment goals and the manner in which they are managed, differs.
For example, in acute care ICU setting, the aim of physiotherapy treatment would be to improve oxygenation and maintain bronchial hygiene, thereby preventing secondary respiratory infections. Physiotherapy also helps in reducing ventilator dependency, facilitating weaning and minimising the impact of immobilisation on the oxygen transport pathway. Patients experiencing moderate symptoms with oxygen support will require assistance in breathlessness management. Increased ventilation to all zones of the lungs and gradual increase in the functional capacity will reduce the impact of immobility on various body systems.
During the second wave, we have noticed that once patients are discharged from hospital, especially patients who had a long stay or needed oxygen or ventilator support during their stay, are at risk of long-term impairment and disability. More than 50 per cent of such individual s exper ience ongoing symptoms such as movement related fatigue, weight loss, ICU acquired weakness/ neuropathies, post intensive care syndromes and residual respiratory, musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiac related impairments. These symptoms can remain even six months after discharge. Therefore continuity of care in the form of individuallytailored therapy programmes delivered in the comfort of their homes seems more feasible.
(The author is the founder and CEO, ProPhysio Healthcare Pvt. Ltd)