Even some patients who were originally considered candidates for a lung transplant managed to recover and go home without the need for one, said Dr. Tiago Noguchi Machuca, a lung transplant surgeon at the University of Florida.
He had treated patients on ventilators and ECMO machines – devices that supply oxygen to the bloodstream and remove carbon dioxide – which managed to get them out of life support and breathing alone. His team keeps such patients on ECMO machines, but tries to take them out of ventilators to restore their breathing ability, he said.
A patient was going home soon. “We had brought him here and really thought he was going to get a transplant,”
Doctors do not yet know how long it will take patients to regain their strength and endurance before Covid. In case of acute respiratory syndrome or ARDS, which is caused by other viruses and has similarities to Covid-19, full recovery may take over a year, but there are no such statistics for Covid yet.
The earlier patients begin their rehabilitation, the faster they begin to jump back, which may be another reason for doctors to take them off the ventilators faster, Ms. Al Chikhanie said. This may be possible, especially as researchers understand how to better manage the acute infection phase.
Doctors at Mount Sinai found that Covid does not break down the blood vessels of the lungs, but dilates them, causing the blood to flow too fast for the oxygen to be absorbed, causing hypoxemia or low blood oxygen levels or hypoxemia. Dr. Hooman Poor, a pulmonologist and co-author of Mt. Sinai paper said more research was needed to identify effective ways to reduce Covid-induced hypoxemia in patients.
Some people who spent a long time on life support can recover even if they need a lot of help and perseverance. “Get active, move and walk around the house, go up and down stairs,” Al Chikhanie said.