A shortage of painkillers and sedatives for COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe is causing concerned hospital groups to seek changes to increase the supply of these drugs.
Patients with more severe cases of the viral respiratory illness may require ventilators, which are machines that help with breathing. But the process of inserting a plastic tube into a patient’s airway is painful and requires pain medicine and sedation.
Beverly Philip, the president-elect of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, said patients in the ICU that use a breathing tube for a ventilator often need medicines to help relax or ease pain, as well as muscle relaxants to help their bodies accept the ventilator.
“These are part of routine needs in the intensive care unit,” she said.
Drugs such as morphine, hydromorphone and the synthetic opioid fentanyl are used to relax COVID-19 patients. Cisatracurium, a commonly used muscle relaxant, and general anesthesia drugs like propofol are often in short supply. Many patients need a combination of these drugs…