CPAP treatments, used by clinics for decades, are saving COVID patients’ lives sooner

LANCASHIRE, United Kingdom — A new study out of the United Kingdom finds that CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a pre-existing medical treatment in use since the 1980s, can help save the lives of COVID-19 patients when implemented within the first few days of hospitalization.

Researchers from Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust gathered the data. Dr. Luigi Sedda of Lancaster University analyzed the results.

“We show that Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) in the first days of hospitalization seems to save between 10% to 20% of patients. However it is important to underline that this was a pilot study with a small sample size, although comforting evidence is starting to emerge elsewhere,” Dr. Sedda explains in university release.

Usually used to help with sleep issues, CPAP makes breathing easier and keeps one’s lungs open longer. For an individual already dealing with severe acute respiratory syndrome, a COVID-19 infection can cause the lungs to swell and collapse. For these patients, CPAP can provide serious relief.

CPAP provides relief to ICUs filled with COVID patients

Furthermore, researchers say COVID patients can receive CPAP easily and effectively within a ward setting. That’s an important consideration considering the lack of space in ICUs all over the world. At the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, CPAP treatments have helped close to 100 coronavirus patients.

“When you use CPAP early in the admission it stops the patient getting worse, therefore avoiding invasive ventilation techniques. As CPAP is readily available and can be used in a ward setting, we have demonstrated that, when used early, it can be very effective way of treating severe COVID-19 pneumonia,” says Consultant Respiratory Physician Dr. Abdul Ashish.

“We are one of the early adopters of ward based CPAP in the North West and have developed local protocols and pathways by modifying our existing CPAP machines to deliver good outcomes for our patients.”

Early intervention can save lives

Implementing CPAP early on can greatly reduce the lung damage caused by COVID-19 and helps patients recover from the inflammatory effects of the infection. However, once that time window has passed, researchers say CPAP isn’t nearly as helpful.

“We are at the forefront of developing care for COVID-19 patients and have developed a very effective treatment strategy for our population who develop lung failure following COVID-19 infection. The people of Wigan can be sure that they are going to get the best care at WWL because we have helped to develop the best care,” comments WWL Associate Medical Director Dr. Martin Farrier.

“The BMJ Respiratory Open is a very significant journal, but more than that, the results of the work are important in terms of our response to COVID-19 and for our organization. This is the most important publication on the use of CPAP in treating COVID-19 patients and shows a significant association with a fall in mortality. The way that we treat patients here in Wigan has been influential in the way that patients are now treated in other organizations,” he concludes.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal.