In the world ravaged by corona pandemic, doctors are noticing a worrying trend in COVID-19 patients. Ispite of low blood oxygen saturation levels, patients are not showing any signs of breathlessness. Pulmonologists says it as silent Hypoxia. According to Dr. S A Bhavani, Retired Civil Surgeon Residential Medical Officer, Government TB and Chest Hospital, Visakhapatnam, hypoxia basically means reduced oxygen in the cells. This leads to resistance to treatment. Since COVID-19 affects the lungs and the respiratory system, it is common for patients to experience hypoxia. The virus silently causes injury to air sacs in the lungs thus making oxygen does not reach the cells. Such patients need assisted breathing and need to be taken under hospital care urgently. If doctors recognize silent hypoxia early enough, it can be treated with oxygen therapy (through nasal tubes, a face mask, or a tube placed in the windpipe).
Doctors says that normal saturation level shows oxygen level in the body at 95 per cent. For Covid-19 patients, the oxygen level can drop to 60 to 50 per cent resulting drying up of oxygen supply to different organs and eventually organ failures happen. This is the reason why most of Covid-19 deaths don’t happen due to what doctors call acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)- commonly breathlessness- or pneumonia. These patients are dying of cardiac problems, kidney failure or similar other conditions. Lungs get damaged to certain extent in severe cases, with doctors attributing the damage to the release of iron from haemoglobin by the virus.
To nip in the bud, the state government supplied more pulse oximeters to detect low oxygen levels for patients in Covid designated hospitals in entire state apart from augmenting requisite infrastructure to meet the demand. Some patients, who have tested positive for COVID-19, have no symptoms. They were identified during contact tracing and isolated. We see that they are doing fine during rounds. On the second or third day, they develop breathlessness when they walk. So, for patients who are ambulant, we are using finger pulse oximeters once in two to three hours. This way, we are able to find the oxygen saturation in the blood. We can pick up early signs before their condition deteriorates,” a doctor involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients said.
As for treatment, Dr.R.Vijai Kumar, Pulmonologist and Professor in MediCiti Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad said treatment for this has to be on logical lines. First keep pumping oxygen through different delivery system. Next kill the virus with antiviral drugs with what we have already used for HIV, swine flue etc. Another new technique is to give readymade anti bodies against the virus. The plasma (transparent clear part of blood) of those people who already suffered and recovered from COVID 19 is rich with these antibodies. We need to keep trying all these partially efficient methods until a vaccine arrives in years’ time.