COVID-19 / Coronavirus has brought a lot of attention to ventilators, which can be lifesaving to patients with severe cases. But how do they work?
The World Health Organization says that 80 percent of people that contract COVID-19 will recover without needing any special treatment, but one in six cases will be serious and people will develop difficulty breathing, and almost all serious cases of COVID-19 feature pneumonia.
How does the COVID-19 pneumonia affect your lungs? According to respiratory physician Professor John Wilson of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, as told to The Guardian Australia, pneumonia causes "your lungs to become filled with inflammatory material," which makes it so that "you are unable to get enough oxygen to the bloodstream, reducing the body’s ability to take on oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide." When a patient is no longer getting sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream, death occurs.
How do ventilators work to keep you alive when your lungs develop severe pneumonia? A tube is placed into the patient's mouth and into the chest near the left and right lungs. 100% oxygenated air is pumped down the tube, which helps move oxygen and nitrogen in and out of the lungs. Some patients will be sedated, while others will need to be put into a medically-induced coma.
Doctors warn that the ventilator itself can cause damage to the tissue of the lungs depending on how much pressure is required to help oxygen circulate. Also, having a tube intubated into your lungs can create a pathway for infection, but for some people ventilators allow lifesaving time for their infection to heal and enable them to breathe on their own again.
*Stay informed on the latest information on the coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization and learn about prevention methods and what to do if you are infected.