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Coronavirus: Lacking ventilators, UK hospital turns to sleep apnea machines

Published: Updated:

A hospital in northwest England has been successfully using a modified version of a sleep apnea device instead of ventilators to treat coronavirus patients as the global pandemic puts a strain on medical resources, according to media reports.

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The black boxes – also known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines – could be readjusted and used instead as a ventilator, a medical team at Cheshire’s Warrington Hospital discovered.

Medical resources have been scarce worldwide, and governments have rushed to supply hospitals with essential equipment such as ventilators, masks, and gloves, and countries have increased efforts to procure the machines or build alternatives.

Ventilators are used to provide oxygen to a person who can no longer breathe on their own. For coronavirus patients in intensive care units (ICUs), they are essential for their survival.

However, the machines are often expensive and patients who are put on ventilators recover slower than those who are not, according to the report.

But the modified black boxes, which were fitted with masks and linked to oxygen, provided the hospital with a cheaper and easily-accessible version of the device.

The masks, the doctors said, are better than those found on ventilators and the patients stabilized more quickly when the CPAPs were used compared to patients who received ventilator assistance.

“Often we were seeing [a] positive reaction within 15 minutes,” one of the hospital’s consultants, Dr. Mark Forrest, told Sky News.

The UK has reported 139,246 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 18,791 fatalities, according to a John Hopkins Univeristy tally.