Turning COVID-19 patients upside down is saving lives

Some healthcare professionals turn patients on their stomachs because it seems like an effective way to keep them stable in Intensive Care Units (UCIs).

The idea is to help patients get the much-needed oxygen in their lungs by facing them. This has seen cases that have improved in a matter of a very short time, such as a patient at the Long Island Hospital in Queens who saw his oxygen saturation rate go from 85% to 98% once he was placed upside down.

However, the idea is not new. In a 2013 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the position was found to help reduce death rates for patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a type of respiratory failure caused by inflammation in the lungs than patients with serious cases of COVID-19 are experiencing.

Now, a study in a hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global pandemic, found that lying over stomach was in some cases more useful than applying positive pressure to the lungs using respirators in patients with COVID-19. This study is the first description of lung behavior in patients with severe COVID-19 who require mechanical ventilation and receive positive pressure. It indicates that some patients do not respond well to high positive pressure and respond better to the prone position (face down) in bed.

In any case, most experts warn that, although it is a technique that demonstrates its success in many cases, there are patients who cannot physically spend the entire day in the hospital while lying on their stomach.

Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.202003-0527LE

Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.

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