Severely ill Covid-19 patients on ventilators are made to lie face down because it’s easier for them to breathe. But that position can also cause permanent nerve damage, according to a new study.
The study from Northwestern University, US, is currently on a preprint server; the university said it has been accepted by the British Journal of Anaesthesia.
Scientists believe that nerve damage is the result of reduced blood flow and inflammation in Covid-19 patients.
When non-Covid-19 patients on ventilators are placed in this position, they rarely experience any nerve damage.
Based on this study and other research, Northwestern said 12 per cent to 15 per cent of the most severely ill Covid-19 patients have permanent nerve damage.
Based on the number of Covid-19 patients worldwide, the researchers estimated thousands of patients have been impacted.
The injury has been missed because critically ill people are expected to wake up with some weakness because they have been bedridden.
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But the pattent of weakness in Covid-19 patients caught the researchers’ attention during rehabilitation when they found that, quite often, an important joint (wrist, ankle or shoulder) would be completely paralysed on one side of the body.
The most common nerve injuries are wrist drops, foot drops, loss of hand function and frozen shoulder. Some patients had as many as four distinct nerve injury sites. Some people need assistance with walking such as a wheelchair, brace or cane.
Source: Northwestern University
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