How do ventilators work to save lives?

A ventilator takes over the body's breathing process when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

This gives the patient time to fight off the infection and recover.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 80% of people with Covid-19 - the disease caused by coronavirus - recover without needing hospital treatment.

But one person in six becomes seriously ill and can develop breathing difficulties.

In these severe cases, the virus causes damage to the lungs. The body's immune system detects this and expands blood vessels so more immune cells enter.

But this can cause fluid to enter the lungs, making it harder to breathe, and causing the body's oxygen levels to drop.

To alleviate this, a machine ventilator is used to push air, with increased levels of oxygen, into the lungs.

The ventilator also has a humidifier, which modifies adds heat and moisture to the medical air so it matches the patient's body temperature.

Patients are given medication to relax the respiratory muscles so their breathing can be fully regulated by the machine.

Emerging medical guidance and research
A "simple" technique known as prone positioning, in which intensive care patients are positioned onto their stomachs, is being advised by experts in the U.K. as a way to lower the chances of coronavirus patients needing ventilation, but further research is needed to validate anecdotal evidence that the treatment is effective on COVID-19 patients. Learn more here
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Ventilators and severe cases

How ventilators work and why we need them to fight covid-19

Coronavirus may cause a ventilator shortage and U.S. healthcare workers are worried there wont be enough of them for the projected number of covid-19 patients. Here's how they help people breathe and why patients with severe cases of covid-19 may need them.

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