Ventilators are needed for a small proportion of patients who become critically unwell, to the point where they struggle to breathe on their own. Doctors look for signs of respiratory failure – a standard breathing rate is 15 breaths per minute, but if the rate gets a lot higher, a ventilator may be needed.
A patient will be given a general anaesthetic and be hooked up to the ventilator, which then either assists, or takes over, the breathing. “In its simplest form, the ventilator fills the patient’s lungs with air containing high amounts of oxygen,” a spokesperson for the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine explains. “This helps oxygen go to the organs throughout the body, including the brain.”
In time, the hope is that there comes a point where the patients are able to breathe for themselves. “The ventilators have numerous modes that offer varying levels of support allowing them to be both comfortable and conscious before we remove their breathing tube,” says the spokesperson.
“Ventilators help oxygen go to the organs throughout the body, including the brain.”
In more severe Covid-19 cases, however, patients may enter acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a respiratory failure that causes widespread inflammation in the lungs. The oxygen levels in their blood might drop too low, or their carbon dioxide levels might rise too high. If either of these happen, it can damage vital organs, like the heart and brain.
“If patients develop ARDS they will be in an intensive care unit for weeks and they’ll die without ventilators,” Professor Sarath Ranganathan, a board member of Lung Foundation Australia, told The Guardian.
When patients’ conditions worsen, specialists are needed to fine tune the process using different settings that ventilators can offer.
Categories: Origins, Symptoms, Vaccine