Srinagar: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Tuesday said many Covid-19 patients are dying due to silent hypoxia, a condition in which patients have extremely low blood oxygen levels, yet do not show signs of difficulty in breathing.
“The concern with this odd presentation is that patients are coming to hospitals in critical condition when their chances of survival are less,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan.
‘We see patients with chest x-rays showing diffuse pneumonia and very low oxygen levels, but they appear normal and not in any kind of distress,” he said.
“Despite Covid pneumonia patients have remarkably low oxygen saturation, they are alert, talking normally and walking around,” he added.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that occurs when air sacs are filled with pus or fluid and patients with it have pain and discomfort.
“But Covid patients with pneumonia don’t feel the same shortness of breath despite drop in oxygen levels,” Dr Nisar said.
“And by the time they feel trouble breathing and reach out for help they are already dangerously sick and they need to be put on ventilator and most of them die.”
“Silent hypoxia may explain why some young Covid-19 patients with no underlying health condition die suddenly without experiencing any sensation of breathing problems.”
Dr Nisar said the key to prevent Covid-19 deaths is early detection of this unusual phenomenon of silent hypoxia.
“This can be done by the use of pulse oximeters which can warn in advance about the impending crisis,” he added.
Dr Nisar said we can save lives by identifying patients whose condition is deteriorating in the early stage by using pulse oximeter.
“Pulse oximeter is a simple medical device that can be used at home to monitor the level of oxygen in patient’s blood and alert him/her if oxygen levels drop below safe levels allowing rapid intervention,” he said adding “normal blood oxygen saturation is between 95% and 100% and anything below 90% is considered abnormal.”
“With most Covid patients in Kashmir now home quarantined under new guidelines, in absence of pulse oximeters it would be difficult for them to know whether or not they need oxygen support,” said Dr Nisar.