Covid-19 patients on ventilation may get permanent nerve damage: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on September 06, 2020

A recent study conducted and published by the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine stated that severely ill Covid-19 patients on ventilators are placed in a prone (face down) position because it’s easier for them to breathe and reduces mortality.

However, that life-saving position can also cause permanent nerve damage in these vulnerable patients.

Scientists stated in their study that the nerve damage is the result of reduced blood flow due to coagulated blood and inflammation. Other non-Covid-19 patients on ventilators in this position rarely experience any nerve damage.

The study has also been approved by the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Lead author Dr Colin Franz, a physician-scientist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine said in a statement: “It’s shocking how big a problem it is.”

“This is a much higher percentage of patients with nerve damage than we’ve ever seen in any other critically ill population. Ordinarily, very sick people can tolerate the position that helps their breathing. But Covid patients’ nerves can’t tolerate the forces other people can generally bear,” he added.

According to the study, 12 per cent to 15 per cent of the most severely ill Covid-19 patients have permanent nerve damage. So, this means that thousands of Covid patients worldwide may have been affected.

“It’s underappreciated, if you take our numbers and extrapolate them,” Franz said.

So far, Franz and team have examined 20 patients from seven different hospitals who reported the injuries.

The most common injuries reported were wrist drops, foot drops, loss of hand function and frozen shoulder.

Some patients had as many as four distinct nerve injury sites. “This could mean permanent difficulties with walking or critical hand functions like writing or operating a computer or cell phone,” Franz said.

Published on September 06, 2020

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