Doctors at the University of Chicago Medicine are seeing “truly remarkable” results using high-flow nasal cannulas rather than ventilators and intubation to treat some COVID-19 patients.

High-flow nasal cannulas, or HFNCs, are non-invasive nasal prongs that sit below the nostrils and blow large volumes of warm, humidified oxygen into the nose and lungs.

A team from UChicago Medicine’s emergency room took dozens of COVID-19 patients who were in respiratory distress and gave them HFNCs instead of putting them on ventilators. The patients all fared extremely well, and only one of them required intubation after 10 days.

“The success we’ve had has been truly remarkable,” said Michael O’Connor, MD, UChicago Medicine’s Director of Critical Care Medicine.

The curve having been flattened has provided us a world of relief.

The HFNCs are often combined with prone positioning, a technique where patients lay on their stomachs to aid breathing. Together, they’ve helped UChicago Medicine doctors avoid dozens of intubations and have decreased the chances of bad outcomes for COVID-19 patients, said Thomas Spiegel, MD, Medical Director of UChicago Medicine’s Emergency Department.

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Originally published in The Forefront, 4/23/2020