Medical Moment: COVID in the ICU

Old practices, increased benefits?
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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The CDC reports that more than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone.

But now, researchers say they’ve learned lessons and gained valuable information from studying responses in the ICU.

In the first days of the pandemic, critical care specialists nationwide quickly put struggling patients on ventilators to improve their airflow and searched for any available treatment. Critical care specialist Dr. Eduardo Oliveira and colleauges at AdventHealth in central Florida studied data from 1,300 COVID patients admitted to the ICU and focused on the most critical 350 to determine what worked.

“Best practices that we felt really made a difference in patient care were practices related to mechanical ventilation, minimizing harm, providing them with lower volumes of air as we are ventilating them,” Oliveira says.

Dr. Oliveira also says the practice of proning a patient worked, placing them face down instead of face up, allowing the lungs to function more efficiently.

“It’s not a drug, it’s not a specific medication that we are giving that saves lives, it is the process,” Oliveira says.

Most of the 350 patients in the central Florida study were on mechanical ventilation. Dr. Oliveira says 70 percent survived, higher than other international studies, which report an average of 50 percent survival.

“I am certain we are going to face similar situations in the future and the learnings from this pandemic will be key on how we treat them effectively from day one,” Oliveira says.

Dr. Oliveira also says having well-trained staff makes a positive difference in patient outcomes.

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