Doctors are finding that placing the sickest coronavirus patients on their stomachs can help increase the amount of oxygen to their lungs and thus can save lives.
This is called the "prone position" which is literally saving lives for the most severe patients of Covid-19, reports CNN.
Dr. Mangala Narasimhan the regional director for critical care at Northwell Health said "We're saving lives with this, one hundred percent,"
"It's such a simple thing to do, and we've seen remarkable improvement. We can see it for every single patient." she added.
Patients with coronavirus often die of ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome. The same syndrome also kills patients who have influenza, pneumonia and other diseases.
Seven years ago, French doctors published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that patients with ARDS who were on ventilators had a lower chance of dying if they were placed on their stomachs in the hospital.
Ever since, to varying degrees, doctors in the United States have been placing ventilated ARDS patients on their stomachs.
Critical care specialists say being on the belly seems help because it allows oxygen to more easily get to the lungs. While on the back, the weight of the body in effect squishes some sections of the lungs.
"By putting them on their stomachs, we're opening up parts of the lung that weren't open before," said Dr. Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital
But there is a downside of this practice, it can be only used for those who are in highly critical condition. Because ventilated patients require more sedation when they're on their stomachs, which could mean a longer stay in the ICU. At Mass General, about a third of coronavirus patients on ventilators get placed on their stomachs, usually the ones who are sickest and have the most to gain from being in that position.
In the 2013 French study. they examined only patients who were on ventilators, so it's not entirely clear what effect the stomach position has for patients who are not as severely ill.
That's why a group of doctors at the Rush University Medical Center, studying whether the stomach position is helpful for patients who are not so sick that they need a ventilator to breathe for them, but sick enough that they need supplemental oxygen delivered through a tube in their nose.
In their clinical trial, patients are being randomly assigned to be on their stomachs or backs, according to David Vines, chair of the cardiopulmonary sciences department at Rush.