Majority of persons who were infected with COVID-19 recovered completely. However, up to 14% were severely infected and 6% became critically ill. Recent research just showed that 16% of COVID-19 patients needed intensive care attention. Some were placed under ventilators while others were in a coma.
In this stage, physiotherapists play a role by ensuring that they can provide help with the patient’s respiratory function. They also anticipate the potential physical recovery afterward.
Physiotherapists are still faced with challenges in handling patients with COVID-19. Here are some:
Low Blood Oxygen
Individuals who are infected by COVID-19 can suffer from low oxygen levels in the blood. This is due to the direct impact of the virus on the respiratory systems.
For moderate to severe cases, prone positioning is recommended to patients. This lying face down set up increases oxygen levels in the blood because it opens up the areas of lung tissues throughout the position.
It is here where physiotherapists may play a crucial role. Physiotherapists’ expertise when it comes to body posture and its relationship with internal organs would definitely help in managing the patient’s condition.
Moreover, physiotherapists can manage procedures such as non-invasive ventilation. This kind of procedure would not need inserting tubes into the patient’s airways. Although this is contested in the medical field especially in treating COVID-19, this could be an appropriate alternative for treatment for patients with less severe infection.
Respiratory infections and difficulty in breathing
Patients with COVID-19 may experience dry cough instead of mucus buildup. However, research in China shows that patients with severe cases are more likely to experience mucus build up in their lungs.
This would necessitate interventions managed by physiotherapists in challenging ways. One of which would be the hyperinflated ventilator and using a flexible catheter to suction mucus out of the lungs.
Physiotherapists can also provide guidance to patients in clearing their mucus through breathing exercises. Safety measures must be strictly observed in this procedure.
Patient recovery will be then ensured as physiotherapists can already help them in their movement.
Basic limb movements can be the beginning of assistance while closely monitoring the vital signs of the patients to ensure that it would not be detrimental to the patient’s welfare.
The whole rehabilitation process will depend upon the condition of the patient. In this case, physiotherapists must anticipate that fatigue and tiredness cannot be easily rid out. Having enough patience throughout the process is a must for physiotherapists as their patients may likely experience anxiety and confusion.
Severe cases may be problematic for some because they can easily lower down oxygen levels. In this case, physiotherapists must be careful in managing the treatment procedure. Planning and noting the progress are some of the ways to ensure this.
Furthermore, physiotherapists must acknowledge any underlying conditions prior to COVID-19 infection. Cardiovascular diseases and some renal diseases can affect the rehabilitation process.
Also, the possibility of having post-intensive care syndrome might as well affect patients in the process. Physiotherapists can guide them in managing it so that they can fully function as they recover.
Applying methods of telerehabilitation can further the provision of assistance in the recovery process. Physiotherapists must effectively utilise them for gradual progress.