Wonderful Engineering

Grounded Airline Planes Can Save Severe COVID-19 Patients From Death With This Technique

According to a new study, the grounded planes and other aircraft converted into field hospitals can help in reducing the mortality rates for severe COVDI-19 patients who are in need of mechanical ventilation.

The peer-reviewed study was focused on 5,700 patients in or around New York City and concluded that patients on ventilators had an 88.1% mortality rate. However, correlation isn’t causation because most of those patients did suffer from pre-existing conditions. Nonetheless, this mortality rate is alarming.

Dr. Daniel Reynolds – founder of Lungfish Dive Systems – says, ‘The question, for me, was that we haven’t run out of ventilators, so why are all these people dead?’ The problem is ‘organ failure through chronic hypoxia.’ The low oxygen levels in the bloodstream lead to people’s bodies giving in in a matter of days only. Lungfish Dive Systems is a UK-based company that specializes in scuba gear.

The problem becomes more complex because of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome which is the inflammation of the lungs. Dr. Daniel Reynolds continues, ‘Their lungs are compromised to the extent that, even with a ventilator on pure oxygen breathing for them, it’s impossible to get enough oxygen.’ Dr. Reynolds continues that the matter isn’t about providing more ventilation but rather a hyperbaric chamber. The hyperbaric planes could potentially help saturate the blood with oxygen.

A hyperbaric chamber is capable of raising the air pressure outside the human body. This method is employed for treating the conditions that are breathing-linked. The increased air pressure outside the body makes it easier to breathe since the air pushes itself into the lungs. Furthermore, oxygen becomes more soluble at higher pressures. Dr. Reynolds said, ‘Hyperbaric oxygen [therapy] is known to reduce inflammation. There are not anywhere near enough hyperbaric chambers to cope with thousands of patients.’ And that’s where the grounded airplanes can be used to even the odds. They are engineered so that they can keep the air pressure normal when they are flying at heights. With a few tweaks, they can be used to create hyperbaric chambers.