Why More Coronavirus ICU Patients Are Making It Out Alive

In All Health Watch, Coronavirus, Featured Article

In the early days of the pandemic, most COVID-19 patients who went into intensive care units did not come out alive.

About 60% of them died.

But a new study shows that by the end of May, things got better. ICU mortality for coronavirus fell to 42%.

That may not seem like much improvement. But it translates to tens of thousands of lives saved.

Why are more patients making it out alive? The study authors say the answer is simple…

As the pandemic continues, doctors are getting better at treating coronavirus. They have found which drugs and therapies work (remdesivir, dexamethasone, turning patients onto their stomachs so they can breathe easier). And which don’t (hydroxychloroquine).[i]

Researchers from British medical institutions reviewed coronavirus mortality studies from around the world. They found the drop in COVID-19 ICU fatalities is about the same everywhere.[ii]

They said this “may reflect the rapid learning that has taken place on a global scale” in how to treat the disease.

“Optimistically, as the pandemic progresses, we may be coping better with COVID-19,” the study concluded.

5 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Surviving a Hospital Stay

More than 350,000 Americans have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Nearly 140,000 of them did not make it.[iii]

When you go into the hospital—for coronavirus or anything else—there are steps you can take to improve your chances of survival. You can do this by protecting yourself against hospital-borne infections.

We used to think of hospitals as sterile safety zones in the war against germs. No more.

In recent years, hospital infections have become rampant and a major cause of death. Every year, 648,000 Americans develop infections during a hospital stay. About 75,000 die.[iv]

And hospitals are often their own worst enemy. By overusing antibiotics, they have encouraged the growth of “superbugs” and killed off patients’ own protective bacteria. These superbugs are immune to antibiotics. They include MRSA and C. diff, and certain strains of staph bacteria.

Scrupulous handwashing, both by patients and hospital staff, often is touted as the best way to fight hospital infections. That’s important. But there are other strategies you may not know to avoid post-surgical infections. 

Don’t shave before going to the hospital. Many men shave their face and women shave their legs at home right before going in for surgery. They figure they might not be able to shave in the hospital. Shaving causes tiny micro-cuts that can be an entryway for a hospital-borne infection.

Let your stubble grow for a few days before going to the hospital.

And if you’re having surgery, don’t let your surgeon shave the surgical site, either. (Most have discontinued this practice.) Experts have known for decades that shaving the incision area increases infection risk.[v]

A study published in the American Journal of Surgery found unseen razor injuries release bacteria into surgical sites.[vi]

Get the tube out ASAP. Central IV lines and catheters are high-risk sites for infection. If you have one of these, every day you should ask staff whether you still need it. The sooner you get rid of it, the less chance of infection.

Go beyond handwashing. It’s not always possible for patients to get out of bed to wash their hands. Keep a bottle of alcohol-based (non-triclosan) hand sanitizer at your bedside. Use it regularly after you touch any surfaces or another person.

If you’re allowed visitors, ask them to use bleach wipes to disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your room once a day. These include TV remotes, bed rails, and door knobs.

Go home ASAP. You can’t get a hospital infection if you’re not in the hospital. As soon as you feel ready to go home, ask your doctor to be released.

If you land in the hospital during the pandemic, following the simple steps above will increase your odds of making a fast recovery.

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[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fcovid-data%2Fcovidview.html