Most know that the coronavirus is considered a respiratory disease. Hence, symptoms of people affected by the virus would normally show signs of difficulty in breathing. For those who want to check out the lungs, X-ray results return images showing the lungs fairly healthy.
These are just some of the complicated scenarios that have befuddled medical practitioners in determining why some patients have very low oxygen levels in their blood. Doctors claim that it does not show when they talk to people who may be carriers of the disease and don’t appear to be struggling to breathe, according to WebMD.
“A whole bunch of these patients have low oxygen, but their lungs don’t look all that bad,” Todd Bull, MD, director for the Center of Lungs and Breathing at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in Aurora, said.
When asked to undergo an X-ray, the lungs of a patient who tested positive for Covid-19 may not offer much help. Some patients may have lungs showing some areas of cloudiness or crazing, though most of it is black – indicating that they are filled with air. In general, the lungs would look fairly healthy. But one doctor may have provided a logical explanation as to why oxygen levels in Covid-19 patients are low.
Cameron Kyle-Sidell, MD, who serves as an emergency room and critical care doctor at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn likens it to altitude sickness. He claimed that it was as if tens of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers are stuck on a plane at 30,000 feet and the cabin pressure is slowly being let out. These patients were slowly being starved of oxygen.
Hence, diagnosing what truly affects a person dealing with the coronavirus may need deeper attention to a person’s lungs. According to Luciano Gattinoni, MD, a guest professor of anesthesia and intensive care at the University of Gottingen in Germany and one of the world’s experts in mechanical ventilation, thinks that the problem may lie in the intricate vessels of the blood vessels of the lungs. He explained that when lungs become damaged, the vessels that carry blood through the lungs close down. Hence, blood can be shunted away from the area that is damaged to an area that is still functioning properly. But Gattinoni felt that some Covid-19 patients are unable to do this anymore, meaning blood is still flowing through damaged parts of the lungs. Some feel like they’re taking good breaths but their blood oxygen is unknowingly dropping at the same time.
As far as ventilators, machines that help patients breathe better, Gattinoni explained that this could cause lung damage due to the high pressure. Hence, he urges doctors to be careful when diagnosing a patient and recommending the use of ventilators only when needed and sparingly as much as possible.
“This is a kind of disease in which you don’t have to follow the protocol — you have to follow the physiology,” Gattinoni said in an interview with MDEdge. “Unfortunately, many, many doctors around the world cannot think outside the protocol.”