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What Are Ventilators And Why Are They Important For COVID-19 Patients?

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease that causes damage to the respiratory system of the body. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing, sore throat, congestion and pneumonia. Patients who are critically ill with COVID-19 need ventilators for their survival.

You must have heard the name 'ventilator' many times since the spread of COVID-19. That's because ventilators are essential to help severe COVID-19 patients recover. Take a look at its usage, benefits and other information.

What Are Ventilators?

Ventilators are tools that help in the proper breathing of the patient allowing ample time to their body to recover from the disease. It helps patients with breathing problems or lung failure. Ventilators are often regarded as life support or breathing machines as they help patients breathe mechanically when their lungs are unable to pump air in and out on its own.

A patient is put under ventilation when there is an excess of fluid accumulation in their alveoli. This cause a drop in the body's oxygen level as the lungs are no longer efficient to carry oxygen in an out of the body. During this time, ventilators are used to provide artificial breathing to the body.

How Do Ventilators Work?

Ventilators work in two way: mechanical ventilation (invasive) and non-invasive ventilation. In mechanical ventilation, a tube is inserted into the windpipe of the patient either through the mouth or through a hole in the throat (tracheostomy). Through the positive pressure ventilation, the air is pushed into the lungs while sucked back through the negative pressure ventilation enabling the process of respiration and movement of the chest. In a non-invasive way, a facemask or nasal mask is fitted for the person to breathe.

Benefits Of Ventilators

  • It reduces the stress of breathing allowing the patient to relax their respiratory muscles.
  • It gives time to the patient to recover.
  • It helps the respiratory system to get back to normal.
  • It allows the passage of ample oxygen to the patient and release carbon dioxide.
  • It helps prevent injury from aspiration.
  • It maintains a stable airway for the patient when they are critically ill and unable to breathe properly.

Risks Of Ventilators

  • Any small leak around the ventilation mask can cause droplets to spray out and infect people around it.
  • The tube may allow other infections to enter into the lungs.
  • Lung damage due to inflation or sudden opening and relaxing of the small alveoli.
  • It may increase the mortality time even if there's a very less chance for the patient to recover.

Who Needs Ventilators

More than half of the people who contracted COVID-19 suffered only from mild symptoms such as fever, cough and headache and got well soon. The condition became critical in people who already have a compromised immune system, chronic diseases, respiratory problems or other lung disorder. Therefore, even if you have COVID-19, you don't necessarily need a ventilator for your survival as you may get well just by medications.

According to a study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, out of 1099 patients in China, only 41.3 per cent of people were kept under ventilation with average hospitalisation period of 12 days. [1]

To Conclude

Ventilators give a comfortable experience to severe or critically ill patients of COVID-19. Though it helps in the survival of a patient, sometimes the experience may get traumatic when the patient does not respond or lies fully unconscious for more days without any hope of recovery. However, the best thing is you are given the right to choose whether you want to go on with ventilators or not.