A maneuver called “proning” may save lives during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a delicate procedure performed by healthcare workers, who carefully turn critically ill patients onto their stomachs in order to improve breathing.
Lying on your stomach helps by opening airways in fluid-filled lungs and taking pressure off the lungs themselves. It’s a tried-and-true procedure that’s gaining popularity, and many hospitals have established “proning teams” specifically for the sole purpose of flipping patients as needed.
According to Business Insider, Colleen Snydeman, director of the Nursing and Patient Care Services Office of Quality and Safety at Massachusetts General Hospital, said proning has been used in U.S. hospitals for years to treat patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.
Patients with ARDS had a much higher survival rate when they were proned instead of lying on their backs, according to Business Insider.
“It was something that was being done, but definitely not at the rate that it’s being done now,” Snydeman said. Experts said that flipping a severely ill person is challenging.
“It’s a challenging job because of the meticulous care and caution that needs to be done when you’re turning these patients, who are among the most fragile,” Dr. Stephen Trzeciak, chief of medicine at Cooper University Health Care, told Business Insider. “They’re just barely clinging to life and you have to be very careful as you do that.”
It takes a team of at least four people to turn a patient over properly without risking complication or further damage to patients. Proning can greatly improve survival rates for those on ventilators and may even be able to keep some patients off the machines, said Business Insider. And some hospitals are regularly using the technique on COVID-19 patients who are less ill to help them breathe more easily.
Global News reported that "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling tweeted that this method “helped a lot” when she was sick, possibly with the coronavirus.
“I did this on my husband’s advice,” she said, adding that her husband is a physician.
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