One Small Move Has Helped Doctors Save Coronavirus Patients

While the world is still waiting on a viable vaccine for COVID-19, doctors everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to heal patients and help reduce symptoms. This has been made even more challenging with the lack of proper medical equipment like ventilators. However, doctors have discovered that one simple trick can help patients breath easier, and it requires no special equipment or challenging medical procedures.

According to CNN, doctors have found that simply flipping patients onto their stomachs improves breathing for many. This position is called the prone position. "We're saving lives with this, one hundred percent," Dr. Mangala Narasimhan, the regional director for critical care at Northwell Health, told CNN. "It's such a simple thing to do, and we've seen remarkable improvement. We can see it for every single patient."

One example of the results from this move showed a dramatic improvement in the patient's oxygen saturation rate. After the flip, the patient's oxygen saturation rate went from 85% to 98%. The patient also didn't need to be admitted into the intensive care unit after being put into the prone position.

The reason for the improvement is pretty simple. Those infected by COVID-19 frequently die because of acute respiratory distress syndrome, or when fluid fills up a person's lungs, making it impossible to breath. By placing patients on their stomachs, their lungs aren't being pressed down on from the weight of the person's body. This makes it easier to fill the lungs up with oxygen.

Unfortunately, the prone position flip isn't a miracle cure-all move. While it does make it easier for people suffering from COVID-19 to breath, it does nothing to actually cure the virus or the acute respiratory distress syndrome. Additionally, it is often difficult or uncomfortable for people to lie on their stomachs for long periods of time. Those who have been placed in the prone position while sedated require additional sedation to maintain the position, which can mean a longer stay in the hospital.

Additionally, a 2013 study from French doctors that studied the prone position in relation to helping acute respiratory distress syndrome patients only studied those that were already using a ventilator. It's unclear exactly how helpful flipping to the prone position is for those who are not using a ventilator to help with breathing. That said, at this point doctors are willing to try moving patients to the prone position if it offers any sort of relief for the patient, with hospitals such as Mass General even having entire "proning teams" dedicated to rolling patients over.

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