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Coronavirus in Context: Do COVID-19 Vent Protocols Need a Second Look?

John Whyte, MD, MPH - Blogs
By John Whyte, MD, MPHBoard-certified internistApril 7, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

We often refer to it as the “novel” coronavirus. Since it’s “novel” – new – we are still determining what are the most effective treatment regimens. Typically, doctors make decisions based upon what has worked for similar diseases. Given that COVID-19 is a virus that is transmitted by respiratory droplets, the focus has been on making sure patients get enough oxygen. Within recent weeks, however, we have been seeing a high mortality for patients once they are put on a ventilator. There are several reasons why this can be the case, and we need to thoroughly examine them. Some physicians and scientists are suggesting we might not be managing it with the right ventilator protocols.

Part of the challenge is that we don’t always have enough data early-on in an epidemic. That’s why it is important to talk to physicians on the front-lines and hear about what they are seeing.  This creates more discussion and debate in the clinical and scientific community to help us determine the most effective treatment strategies.

That’s why I interviewed Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell, an emergency medicine and critical care physician in New York city. He and other physicians have seen different things that suggest we may need to refine our treatment of coronavirus. Sidell feels that COVID-19 is behaving initially more like high-altitude pulmonary edema than acute respiratory distress syndrome. He has been sharing his observations in the hope of hearing other physicians’ experience. He wants us to debate and discuss it since the treatment strategies may differ.

This is a fast-moving situation where we continue to get new information almost daily. My goal is to help promote discussion about what’s the right treatment so we can save more lives. As doctors bring forward different  perspectives they need to be examined through the scientific process, and we need to move expeditiously to determine the most effective treatments.

In this series, WebMD's Chief Medical Officer interviews the nation’s top experts to get answers for the big coronavirus questions that are top of mind for all of us.

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About the Author
John Whyte, MD, MPH

John Whyte, MD, MPH, is a board-certified internist and the Chief Medical Officer at WebMD, where he leads efforts to develop and expand strategic partnerships that create meaningful change around important and timely public health issues. As a popular health writer, he has been published extensively both in medical and mainstream publications.

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