Coronavirus: When is a ventilator needed?

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About ventilator support
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About ventilator support

The silver lining with India's Covid-19 fight is that most of the cases reported in the country so far are mild versions of the infection. Very few of those who have tested positive actually require hospitalisation. However, with the rise in cases, and more and more casualties, the number of people who require medical support may also increase. Like the flu, one of the main symptoms of the virus is cough and difficulty in breathing. In the severe cases, ventilators might be needed for additional support to patients. Here are some often asked questions about ventilator support...

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What can coronavirus do to the lungs?
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What can coronavirus do to the lungs?

Though Covid-19 often begins as an upper respiratory tract infection, with cough and sore throat, coronavirus can trek down the throat and enter the lower respiratory tract. There, it damages the lung’s air sacs.

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When is a ventilator needed?
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When is a ventilator needed?

When the lungs are so damaged that a patient is not getting enough oxygen, the ventilator is used. It can provide more oxygen to the body than a nasal cannula (nose prongs) or a face mask. The ventilator is not a treatment to heal damaged lungs but instead allows the lungs a longer time to recover on their own.

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Will there be long-term lung damage?
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Will there be long-term lung damage?

COVID-19 is new, so long-term studies of survivors have not been done yet. However, studies based on the experience of other survivors with acute respiratory distress syndrome have shown a full recovery is possible, but over a long time, as long as months to years.

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What if doctors can’t get a patient off the vent?
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What if doctors can’t get a patient off the vent?

When improvement is slow and someone has been on the ventilator for two weeks or so, a procedure called a tracheostomy tube may be done. A plastic tube inserted in the that offers a more permanent connection to the ventilator. The breathing tube itself can do damage to the vocal cords if left in for more than about two weeks, so the tracheostomy, or “trach,” allows more time for the lungs to recover, while avoiding damage to the vocal cords.

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