New York: Scientists have found a possible explanation Covid-19 patients with extremely low, otherwise life-threatening levels of oxygen, but no signs of suffocation.
How the brain reacts to low oxygen levels may be one of the factors, a condition known as silent hypoxemia or “happy hypoxia,” said the study, published online in the American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine.
This new understanding can prevent unnecessary intubation and ventilation of patients during the current and the expected second wave of the coronavirus.
The study showed that “several pathophysiological mechanisms account for most, if not all, cases silent hypoxemia.
This includes an initial assessment at the level of the patient with oxygen using a pulse oximeter.
“While the pulse oximeter is surprisingly accurate when oxygen reading is high, it significantly exaggerates the severity of low oxygen levels if readings are low,” said the study’s lead author Martin Tobin, Professor, Loyola University Chicago Stritch school of medicine in the United States.
“Another factor is how the brain reacts to low oxygen levels. As the oxygen level drops in patients with Covid-19, the brain does not respond until oxygen falls to very low levels — at which point the patient usually becomes short breath,” he said.
In addition, more than half of the patients had a low level of carbon dioxide that may seriously affect the extremely low level of oxygen.
It is also possible that coronavirus has a peculiar effect on how the body senses low oxygen levels, which may be due to the lack of smell, facing two-thirds COVID-19 patients, according to Tobin.
Recognizing that further research is needed, the study concludes that “the features about Covid-19, it is not clear that doctors becomes less strange when viewed in the light of long-established principles of the physiology of respiration”.
“This new information may help to avoid unnecessary endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation, which poses a risk when the constant and long-awaited second wave COVID-19 emerges,” said Tobin.
The study included a small group Covid-19 patients with very low oxygen levels, no difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
The term hypoxia generally refers to insufficient supply of oxygen for use by tissues.
However, there is also a condition called cerebral hypoxia, which refers to the condition in which there is reduced delivery of oxygen to the brain, although there is adequate blood flow, according to the National Institute of neurological disorders and stroke, Institute of the U.S. National institutes of health.
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