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Coronavirus Update: High-Flow Oxygen Protocol And 'Proning' Reducing Number Of Patients On Ventilators

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is good news in terms of Intensive Care Unit admissions and intubations of COVID-19 patients in New York.

The three-day average total for both is down. Some are giving at least partial credit to a new approach to treating the disease, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Tuesday.

In the early days of the pandemic, experts predicted a dire need for a critical piece of medical hardware -- ventilators.

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But more than a month in, with many patients on ventilators not surviving, some front-line doctors are reconsidering.

"It has challenged every dogma that we believed," said Dr. David Farcy, the president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.


Farcy is an advocate of an approach he said has dramatically reduced the number of his patients on ventilators.

"I think people are becoming believers," Farcy said.

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Doctors noticed many COVID-19 patients with hypoxemia -- low blood-oxygen levels. Farcy said 95 to 100 is normal.

"If you go down into the 80s, forget about that. Six weeks ago everybody would be running around getting ready to intubate you, put you on a machine," Farcy said.

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Brooklyn Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell was among those who started questioning using the established ARDS protocol to treat patients, with many put on ventilators and not surviving.

Anumber of front-line doctors adopted a protocol to deliver high-flow oxygen through a tube or mask for long periods of time and using so-called "proning" -- moving patients off their backs.

"We started having patients go to their left side or their right side and suddenly the oxygenation went up, and we're able to reverse the hypoxemia and prevent the intubation," Farcy said.

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It doesn't work for everyone and this approach has critics who are uncomfortable with a protocol that hasn't undergone a lengthy clinical trial.

"We don't have the time to do that right now. This is a war zone," CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez said.

Gomez, who is normally all about data and research, went on to say, "This is not usually what I would say, but I've come to believe that it's not unreasonable to try other things."

Whatever is driving this curve down, it is welcome news.

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