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COVID-19 treatment: what are artificial lung ventilation apparatuses needed for and how do they work

Western countries massively purchase mechanical ventilation devices: in connection with the Covid-19 epidemic, these machines are not enough in Italy, Britain and the USA. In severe cases, such an apparatus gives patients the best chance of survival, writes Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

To simplify, the ventilator takes on the process of providing the body with oxygen when the lungs stop working. This gives the body time to fight the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80% of people with Covid-19, which is caused by the coronavirus, recover without medical attention.

But out of every six cases, one is severe, and in severe cases, it becomes difficult for patients to breathe.

How ventilation works

To connect the patient to mechanical ventilation, doctors insert an endotracheal tube into the airways.

When the disease affects the lungs, the immune system reacts to this by vasodilation so that more antibodies enter the bloodstream.

But because of this, fluid can accumulate in the lungs - it becomes harder to breathe, and the body begins to experience a lack of oxygen.

To counteract this, a compressor is used, through which air with a high oxygen content enters the lungs.

Another component of the ventilator is a humidifier, which heats the air from the ventilator to body temperature and humidifies it.

Ventilated patients are given medications that relax the diaphragm and other muscles to allow the device to fully regulate breathing.

It should be noted that the device is not a means of treating and restoring damaged lungs, but only gives respite to the lungs so that they can recover themselves.

Patients with milder symptoms can be prescribed non-invasive ventilation with different types of masks that are worn on the face.

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Another method used in the treatment of patients with Covid-19 is the use of a “cap”, which is fixed on the patient's neck. The cap prevents the virus from entering the environment with the patient's breathing.

In intensive care units, as a rule, they try to connect patients with affected respiratory organs to ventilators as quickly as possible in order to prevent a sharp drop in oxygen levels in the body.

Dr. Shaunpidon Laha of the Intensive Care Associations Association told the BBC that most patients with Covid-19 will not need a ventilator; they can be treated at home with oxygen therapy.

But sometimes a ventilator is “the only way to get oxygen into a patient,” says the medic, even though the use of ventilators can be risky. It is not always clear to doctors which ventilated patients will suffer from the long-term effects of the virus.

Another problem is related to the availability of qualified doctors and health workers in hospitals to service the devices - there are not always enough of them.

“The fan is a complex beast. It can injure the patient if it is not properly adjusted. There are complex technical aspects. Some people have experience with different types of ventilators in other areas of medicine, but they need support to use them correctly in an intensive care setting, ”he says.

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Due to the rapid spread of Covid-19, many healthcare systems cannot cope with the influx of patients who also require mechanical ventilation. Sometimes hospitals that lack apparatuses have to make a choice in favor of patients who are more likely to survive.

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