New research helps COVID patients breathe easier

[image: Peninsula Health Intensive Care Specialist Associate Professor Ashwin Subramaniam] 
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was observed that people with severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as a chest infection, could develop a condition that limited the amount of oxygen to their lungs; commonly referred to as ARDS: Acute respiratory distress syndrome. ARDS can result in severe scarring of the lungs, and this scarring can affect not only the lung structure, but also the oxygen providing ability of lungs.  

Studies undertaken in the early stages of the pandemic, involving a small group of patients with COVID-19 ARDS with low oxygen levels, suggested that there were differences in the effect of ARDS on their lungs compared with patients with non-COVID-19 related ARDS. These early studies suggested that different methods of ventilator support may be required to improve oxygen levels in patients with COVID-19 ARDS compared to those with non-COVID-19 ARDS.  

However, a study undertaken by Peninsula Health intensive care specialists and researchers Mallikarjuna Ponnapa Reddy and Ashwin Subramaniam, and their team suggests this may not be the case. Published in the highly regarded Lancet series, the study reviewed over 11,300 patients from 51 different studies, as part of a multinational project with Peninsula Health, Monash University, the University of Queensland, Griffith University, National University Hospital, Singapore, and the University of Toronto. 

This review showed that time-tested and previously proven methods of ventilation, currently used in patients with non-COVID-19 related ARDS, should be also used with COVID-19-ARDS patients until there is clear evidence to the contrary.  

As such, the researchers recommended that ventilation methods should be modified for patient specific requirements, rather than disease or virus causing the condition – providing intensive care units with confidence in their existing approaches.