Dozens of swine flu patients were saved from respiratory failure when doctors in Australia and New Zealand turned to machines that pump blood through an artificial lung, resulting in a 17-fold increase in the uncommon procedure.
The finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday, is based on the first population- wide study of lung-bypass equipment made by companies such as Getinge AB and Medtronic Inc. to treat H1N1 patients. The study suggests the life-saving technique might be used on about 800 cases in the U.S. this winter and 1,300 in the European Union.
Sixty-eight patients whose damaged lungs rendered them unable to breathe had the procedure, the authors said. One out of five died and almost half were able to walk out of the hospital after suffering acute respiratory distress syndrome, a condition fatal in up to 48 percent of cases.
“We have a gut feeling that these patients would have died more frequently and that we did improve the likelihood of their survival,” said Andrew Davies, deputy director of intensive care at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital and the study’s lead author.
For more traditional plays see last April's "Tracking the Swine Flu Outbreak: Tuesday. And: The Swine Flu Index (*RXFLU)":