US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Thousands of patients who overcame coronavirus are at risk of damage to the lungs, heart, and other organs, and it will take up to 15 years to recover, intensive care specialists warn.
Damage caused by the virus directly, as well as intensive medical procedures necessary to save patients in critical condition, will lead to scarring of the lungs, nerve damage and psychological trauma, warns the Department of Intensive Care, which is responsible for the training of resuscitation doctors in the UK.
An analysis of coronavirus incidence in China and other countries shows that 17% of patients admitted to intensive care develop acute respiratory failure syndrome – a fatal disease with a mortality rate of about 40%.
“The impact of coronavirus on intensive care will fundamentally change the way nursing and medical staff work during a pandemic and its intensity,” said Dr. Daniel Briden, associate dean of the intensive care unit.
The syndrome of acute respiratory failure causes a powerful inflammatory reaction in the lungs, which leads to the leakage of fluid from blood vessels into the spaces where air is supposed to be. Breathing without medical attention becomes impossible.
Intensive care physicians are familiar with this syndrome because it accompanies infections such as flu and pneumonia, as well as chest injuries. It accounts for about 10% of cases of intensive care, but with the outbreak of coronavirus, the number of patients with acute respiratory failure syndrome will increase up to a critical shortage of beds for intensive care.
In the United Kingdom, there are about 4,000 of them – this is much less per capita than in the EU countries – and up to 80% are already occupied by patients with other diseases.
“Mortality from acute respiratory distress syndrome is between 30 and 40%,” says Michael Matthay, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and a recognized expert on the disease. – There is no special treatment, except to euthanize the patient and put him in a ventilator for recovery. The survivors subsequently have significantly limited physical activity and a reduced physical quality of life due to pronounced muscle wasting and weakness.”
Eileen Rubin spent several weeks in a medical coma when she developed acute respiratory distress syndrome after a lung infection. She now runs the US foundation to fight the disease. “It’s like you are suffocating and drowning in the air. And even if you recover, the damage will remain for many years. Those of us who have had this syndrome live in constant fear of coronavirus and its consequences.”
Mark Griffiths, a professor of critical illness medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London and one of Britain’s leading experts on the disease, said a full recovery could take months or even years. “Survivors usually suffer from muscle weakness and neuropsychiatric problems, so less than 50% return to work within a year after discharge from intensive care,” he said in his article. “Many have physical disabilities like joint contractures, tracheal stenosis and cosmetic problems associated with scarring.”
The intensive care unit believes that to the “subjectively normal” level, the lungs recover in six months, but even in this case there are residual symptoms such as decreased ability to exercise. “For others, the recovery process can take up to 15 years,” experts said.
Doctors also warn of damage to other organs. “Like a number of other viral diseases, the effect of coronavirus alone is not limited to. Damage to the heart is possible – from inflammation (myocarditis) to heart failure.”
“For serious patients, the prospects are very serious,” said Nicki Credland, head of the British Department of Intensive Care Nursing, an intensive care unit at the University of Hall. She warned that doctors have a “difficult choice” to treat first. Doctors call this process triage or sorting. She said: “If we see Italian level figures, we will have to select patients with better chances of survival. The rest will have to take risks and leave them in the usual ward.”
However, there is a glimmer of hope. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently decided to accelerate the development of a new treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome, which has shown promising results in clinical trials. Other agencies, including the Office of Advanced Research and Development in Biomedicine, will give their assessment to expedite its development.
Jeff Bellingan, the medical director of the National Health Service Foundation at London University College, tested the methodology from Athersys, an American biotechnology company. Special stem cells are introduced into the blood of patients to stop destructive pneumonia.
“Clinical trials are encouraging,” Bellingan said. “Our treatment allowed us to halve the mortality rate, reduce the duration of intensive care and provide patients with a significant improvement in the quality of life after discharge. Amid the threat of coronavirus, this can be very important.”
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