Due to improvements in treatment practices, coronavirus patients who are hospitalised should be 30% less likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 30% less likely to die if they do need intensive care.
Six months after coronavirus arrived in the Netherlands, medical professionals have been able to put together a treatment plan for the virus that can reduce the severity of the illness, and its mortality rate.
When the virus first arrived, a standardised treatment plan was a long way away. “We read a lot about what happened in China, but it is different when you have real patients in front of you. It could happen that you read something in the trade journals in the evening that you had to apply immediately in the morning,” said Annelies Verbon, chairman of the Dutch association for internist infectiologists, to NOS.
What kinds of treatment do coronavirus patients get in the Netherlands?
Part of the new treatment is virus inhibitors. This isn’t necessary if you have a mild form of the virus, but “hospital patients who belong to a high-risk group or require supplemental oxygen can now receive the virus inhibitor remdesivir. Probably some of the patients will not need artificial respiration and some can go home a few days earlier,” says Verbon.
Some changes have also been made to how patients are treated once they enter the ICU. At the beginning of the crisis, coronavirus was understood to be similar to pneumonia, so doctors placed patients on their bellies when they were put on respirators (as this is known to clear fluid from the lungs faster). Now, we know that coronavirus is much more than pneumonia. Blood clots are also understood to be a major part of the disease, so patients are given blood thinners as a matter of course.
Another treatment will be the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone. Some coronavirus patients’ immune systems overreact to the virus, causing more damage than good, and that’s where this drug will come in handy. In a British study, it reduced the mortality rates of ventilator patients by 30%.
Another key part of the updated treatment plans is personalisation: the virus affects patients in very different ways, and different treatment options need to be provided.
It’s not yet clear exactly what difference these new treatments will make, but most practitioners are estimating between 30% and 40% fewer patients needing to be admitted to an ICU, and between 35% and 25% fewer deaths. However, Verbon still says that people should avoid being infected if at all possible, of course.
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