Sharing ventilators may be possible for COVID-19 patients, research suggest

Sharing ventilators may be possible for COVID-19 patients, research suggest

Amid ventilator shortage, several doctors from various hospitals in the U.S. have found that sharing ventilators between two patients is doable.

Ventilators are undeniably heaven-sent for coronavirus patients who fall critically ill. Infected persons supplied with proper ventilation often recover, as Dr. Colin Cooke had observed.

The effectiveness of respirators, however, is of no use if the number of patients under critical care in one hospital is twice or thrice the number of ventilators. Such a dilemma, in fact, had contributed massively to the onslaught of COVID-19 patients who died due to lung failure and a limited number of “breathing machines.”

To prevent fatality, doctors performed an experimental method called ventilator sharing. It was eventually proven viable for two patients for up to two days.

Study shows ventilator can be shared

During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak—which perpetuated the unprecedented shortage of ventilators—Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, New York tried to pair two patients with healthy lungs to share one ventilator. The method worked. It provided enough respirators too to handle the surge of coronavirus patients.

For COVID-19 patients, sharing ventilators may be possible

The procedure, however, was not tested on persons with injuries similar to those who contracted the virus. Its lack of study had then put the method under scrutiny by other hospitals, claiming that it could result in more complicated scenarios.

A Manhattan hospital had again tried to perform ventilator sharing. But this time, the study involves six patients who are severely ill due to COVID-19.

Doctors paired two coronavirus patients with similar breathing difficulties and needs. Through the process, they found out that the method is possible for up to two days.

Ventilator sharing is a “reasonable and helpful makeshift method” to support patients who need respirators, wrote Dr. Jeremy Beitler and his team on the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine last Tuesday, June 9.

Ventilator sharing does not remove the need of respirators

Although the method worked, the researchers emphasized that sharing respirators between two people does not remove the necessity to acquire more breathing equipment.

It, however, helps in delaying time while transferring patients with available ventilators or when waiting for ventilators to be delivered to hospitals.

“Ventilator sharing does not obviate the need for more ventilators,” Dr. Beitler said.

On a more serious note, the doctor also warned that ventilator sharing must only be done by expert hospitals and centers. The study says that patients must be suitable to share the equipment. Otherwise, it could lead to undesirable results.

Additionally, there is no study yet concerning the prolonged sharing of ventilators. “The safety and utility of prolonged ventilator sharing, when ventilators or patients cannot be relocated, is unknown,” the researchers wrote.

Images courtesy of Javier Matheu/Unsplash, Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr

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