Treating COVID-19 Patients in Critical Condition
Madison, Wisconsin – The UW School of Medicine and Public Health is in the midst of several clinical trials for advanced treatments of COVID-19. While new treatments and innovations are exciting, most remain unproven and some even could bring harm. Hospitals must continue to treat patients who are critically ill from a COVID-19 infection with all the best available medical protocols and evidence.
Patients with COVID-19 can face a life-threatening situation if their immune systems progress to attack their lungs. It can make breathing difficult to nearly impossible by not allowing the lungs to extract oxygen or get rid of carbon dioxide. Doctors call this acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
“While awaiting the results of clinical trials for new treatments of COVID-19, it is important to make sure critically ill patients receive the appropriate life-saving care,” said Dr. Lynn Schnapp, chair of the Department of Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
There are detailed protocols guided by clinical studies that direct health care providers on the medical interventions proven to benefit patients with ARDS. These recommendations cover how best to use a ventilator, how much intravenous fluid to give, medications that can help patients and medications that do not help, and how to best position the patient so they can breathe better.
There is exciting research going on related to COVID-19 that will further our understanding of how we provide care in the future. But the evidence-based guidelines for ARDS treatment have proven to be effective to treat COVID-19 patients who require critical care, yet they are not always applied in some health care settings. For example, a recent nationwide study showed up to one third of patients with ARDS did not receive all the recommended care in the current guidelines.
“This treatment protocol works, and we must ensure all critical care health care workers understand it and apply it,” Schnapp said. “This treatment saves lives.”
Date Published: 06/04/2020