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The COVID-19 maneuver saves lives, but often causes permanent nerve damage



A life-saving COVID-19 maneuver can cause permanent nerve damage in some patients, especially the elderly, according to a new report. The study comes from Northwestern University, where researchers found that using the prone position – where a patient is placed face down – puts patients at unusually high risk of problems with their arms and legs.

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A small percentage of COVID-19 patients develop a serious illness where they cannot breathe on their own. In this case, patients are put on a ventilator, which is a special medical device that makes it easier for the patient to breathe until they have recovered enough to be removed from the device.

Ventilators are an important last effort tool that can save lives. However, they come with their own risks, including ventilator-associated pneumonia and irritation. According to the new study, the practice of placing COVID-1

9 patients in the prone position – which increases their chances of survival – can lead to permanent nerve damage to arms and legs.

The number of patients who have seen this nerve damage is described as shocking. The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Colin Franz stated:

It’s shocking how big the problem is. This is a much higher percentage of patients with nerve damage than any other seriously ill population. Usually very sick people can tolerate the position that helps their breathing. But the nerves of COVID patients cannot tolerate the forces that other people in general can carry.

Of the seriously ill COVID-19 patients who received ventilators, the study found that 12 to 15 percent had permanent nerve damage. It can be severe enough to leave a joint like a shoulder or wrist paralyzed. Frozen shoulder, foot, wrist, and hand function loss are the most common outcomes in these patients, according to the study.

The damage is likely due to the patient’s position. As a result, Northwestern Memorial Hospital optimizes these patients’ position by adding padding for the elbows and knees and relieving pressure on the neck.


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