Why Do Some COVID-19 Patients Need a Ventilator?

VIDEO | 00:56

Some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 need a machine to help them breathe. Critical care medicine physician Neil Halpern explains what you need to know about ventilators.

Show transcript

Patients are admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 infection and various symptoms. Some of those patients have a significant amount of inflammation in their lungs, and it is both difficult for them to breathe and for them to get oxygen into the lungs. Those patients are commonly seen by the intensive care unit consultation service and are admitted to the ICU. It is certainly very challenging for loved ones and caregivers to understand what is going on with the patients. So in the simplest terms, the machine — the mechanical ventilator — pushes oxygen into the lungs and helps open up, so to speak, the inflamed areas to provide oxygen for the patient, so breathing and total body function is improved.