Oxygen therapy or ventilators: Indian doctors make a choice

Indian doctors are having a preference for oxygen therapy over ventilator usage when treating patients. The low success rate of ventilators has been cited by these doctors as a reason for their preference.

Doctors in India are turning to oxygen therapy as an alternative to ventilators in the treatment of coronavirus. The race to secure ventilators has accelerated in the last few weeks, and India too is racing to secure these medical devices.

However, as time passes, more and more data about the virus is becoming readily available. The methods used to treat the virus are also evolving with doctors now suggesting oxygen therapy may be more helpful to patients in some situations than ventilators. Experts have indicated that noninvasive therapy may be just as effective as ventilators.

Doctors are now becoming more reluctant to use ventilators due to their low success rate in places that have provided data on patients who have used them. New York, for instance, released data showing that only 20 percent of people placed on ventilators survived the coronavirus infection.

This has led to Indian doctors taking a laid back approach on the usage of ventilators, a device with tubes that are inserted to the lungs through the throat to help patients be able to breathe in a process called intubation. Doubts have also been laid on the effectiveness of the ventilators with experts such as Dr. Sushila Kataria, an expert in infectious diseases at Medanta Hospital going as far as suggesting usage of the devices plunges the survival rates of patients.

When to use ventilators or oxygen therapy

Dr. Katari, who is currently treating 54 patients, said the decision on what type of oxygen therapy to use or if a ventilator should be used depends on patients’ oxygen requirements.

She explained that for patients requiring between 2 to 6 liters per minute, they are given nasal cannula-based oxygen therapy. For 6 to 15 liters per minute, oxygen-based mask therapy is administered. Patients requiring 15 to 50 liters per minute are given nasal cannula oxygen whereas patients who need more than 50 liters per minute are intubated.

Dr. Tanu Singhal, an infectious disease expert at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, added that they do not always have a choice on what method to use. She said patients receiving oxygen therapy may deteriorate in health, and this calls for intubation as a last result measure.


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