Saturday June 6, 2020

What happens on a ventilator?

We have all seen the pictures of patients who are severely ill with Covid-19 on artificial ventilators, but what does this actually involve? And what are the possible consequences?

Susan Mitchell

Deputy Editor and Health Editor

12th April, 2020
Medical staff attend to patients with coronavirus at the intensive care unit of Aachen University Hospital in Aachen, Germany: while the number of cases of Covid-19 infection is continuing to rise in Germany, the rate of growth has slowed. Picture: Getty

A healthy lung has almost no substance. “It’s like a sponge. There is much more air than tissue,” said Professor John Laffey, a Galway-based consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine.

Covid-19 changes all that. It can cause a sticky fluid to fill the air sacs, which impedes the free flow of oxygen. As the lungs fill up with this liquid (called oedema fluid), the lung texture begins to feel like...

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