Study details tracheal injuries in long-term ventilated COVID patients

A study yesterday found that 47% of COVID-19 patients who required prolonged mechanical ventilation developed potentially life-threatening tracheal (airway) complications.

The JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery study found that COVID-19 patients were significantly more likely to suffer full-thickness tracheal lesions (FTTL)—tears extending through the tracheal muscle wall—and tracheoesophageal fistulas (TEF)—an abnormal connection between a patient’s airway and esophagus, which is the tube leading to the stomach.

Serious tracheal complications from prolonged mechanical ventilation are typically rare (0.3% to 3%), but caregivers have observed an unprecedented increase in patients with COVID-19, the study authors note. 

The retrospective study compared 98 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Pisa, Italy, for severe respiratory failure from Mar 1 to May 31,

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