News reports have shown that COVID-19 patients in Italian hospitals are using helmets with ventilation to help them breathe.
Helmets are an alternative to traditional noninvasive ventilation (NIV), which usually is provided via a mask to patients.
Italy and other European countries have been using helmets more frequently to treat patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), even before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
NIV via helmet is an option to treat patients as another step before intubation, which can cause additional health problems and is costly. Helmet-based ventilation was found to be more effective than ventilation via face mask in a three-year study at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The same study found patients improved faster, had fewer days in the ICU and hospital, and had a lower mortality rate.
Helmets are being used in Italy now to treat COVID-19 patients who are in respiratory distress from the virus. Some reports refer to them as “bubble helmets,” since they are clear plastic and cover a patient’s head. The helmets provide air and oxygen flow to keep the lungs open and improve breathing in patients.
Helmets can be safer for staff and patients with COVID-19 if they are used with an antiviral filter to keep the virus from leaving the helmet’s closed system.
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