With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19

A fuel cell stack testing engineer tests ventilator oxygen at Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Beth Laberge/Pool Photo via AP

Date Published: April 8, 2020

Source: Stat News

COVID-19 patients are often intubated based on low blood oxygen saturation levels, which is currently the standard practice in critical care medicine. However, many anecdotes and small studies report that COVID-19 patients do not show typical symptoms of hypoxia, such as shortness of breath and fast heart rate, but present similarly to patients with altitude sickness. Some physicians are advocating for a more nuanced use of mechanical ventilation and an increase in the use of non-mechanical ventilation, which would help alleviate the demand for ventilators. Evidence from small studies seem to indicate that many patients treated with non-invasive, positive pressure ventilators (such as CPAP and BiPAP) show significant improvement in their oxygenation, although it occurs over a longer time period. Additionally, ventilators can cause further damage to the lung tissue in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): one of the most severe consequences of COVID-19. However, the challenge with this new approach is that non-invasive ventilation creates aerosolized viral particles that may place healthcare workers at higher risk of infection as compared to mechanical ventilation where aerosolization only occurs during the initial intubation. 

Read the full article here: https://www.statnews.com/2020/04/08/doctors-say-ventilators-overused-for-covid-19/

Summary by: Sophia Duong