As health officials around the world push to get more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, some doctors are moving away from using them whenever they can.
That’s because some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and some doctors worry that the machines could actually be harming certain patients.
Death rates for COVID patients on ventilator
80% or more of coronavirus patients placed on the machines in New York City have died, state and city officials say. Higher-than-normal death rates have also been reported elsewhere in the US.
66% was the death rate in UK for coronavirus patients on ventilators, one report said.
86% death rate was found in a small study in Wuhan, China.
What could be causing deaths?
The reason for the deaths is not clear. It may have to do with what kind of shape the patients were in before they were infected it could be related to how sick they had become by the time they were put on the machines, some experts said ventilator can be damaging to a patient over time, as high-pressure oxygen is forced into the tiny air sacs in a patient’s lungs.
Docs trying alternatives
Physicians are trying other measures first. One is having patients lie in different positions — including on their stomachs — to allow different parts of the lung to aerate better.
Another is giving patients more oxygen through nose tubes or other devices. Some doctors are experimenting with adding nitric oxide to the mix, to help improve blood flow and oxygen to the least damaged parts of the lungs.
How are doctors designing treatments?
- Doctors are still learning the best way to manage a virus that emerged only months ago.
- They are relying on anecdotal, real-time data amid a crush of patients and shortages of basic supplies.
Experts say that patients with bacterial pneumonia, for example, may be on a ventilator for no more than a day or two. But it’s been common for coronavirus patients to have been on a ventilator “seven days, 10 days, 15 days, and they’re passing away,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.