Doctors seeing good outcomes with oxygen therapy that can help keep COVID-19 patients off of ventilators

Nasal High Flow Therapy is being used more frequently on patients suffering from COVID-19. Doctors said it is less invasive and may lead to shorter hospital stays.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — More than 72,000 Floridians have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic started almost eleven months ago according to the Florida Department of Health’s data and surveillance dashboard

Some of the sickest patients have been put on ventilators, but a Baptist Health critical care specialist said he is seeing good outcomes with a less invasive therapy that is more comfortable for patients and readily available.

Dr. Eddy Gutierrez of Baptist Health sees the effects of COVID-19 up close and personal every day.

“As as an intensive care doctor, I take care of the sickest patients,” Gutierrez said.

He is now using an alternative to ventilators more frequently with patients battling COVID-19 who need respiratory support. The treatment is called Nasal High Flow Therapy.

“As the pandemic has kept on moving along, we’re learning how it’s safe. It’s beneficial for our patients, and it’s actually removing some of the concerns we had of not having enough ventilators,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “It’s something that once a person reaches a certain level of oxygen that they need, we just go ahead and put them on this device to try to see how they do see if it makes them better.”

One of the benefits of Nasal High Flow Therapy is patients do not have to be sedated.

“Patients are awake, conscious, spontaneously breathing, and High Flow is very, very comfortable for those patients,” Christopher Harrison, director of clinical affairs at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, said. “It’s really risen to the cause with COVID because what it’s doing is it’s moving the mucus up and out of a patient’s airway as well as supporting the breathing.”

Dr.Gutierrez said this type of therapy allow patients to have some sense or normalcy in what is a very abnormal situation.

“During the time period that we’re waiting for the COVID to run its course, for the inflammation to run its course, the people could be in the hospital but still be able to eat their own meals, speak to their families on the telephone, on FaceTime,” Gutierrez said. “It doesn’t have all the same functions as a ventilator. A ventilator is much stronger, but if we could avoid placing patients on a ventilator by using this technology, it is definitely something we reach to first as it is far less invasive.”

Studies show it can help prevent intubation and lead to shorter hospital stays.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the cure all for everything. There will be patients who despite this therapy still go on to needing a ventilator,” Gutierrez said. “However, some of the some of the studies that have come out of different places in the country have shown good, good results, and we’re seeing it firsthand.”