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Top 10 Things I learned Treating COVID Patients 

By  Dr. Mike Hansen

Treating Covid Patients: Some intensive care units in various hospitals throughout this county have designated units for COVID patients. As an intensive care doctor, I’ve been seeing many COVID patients in our designated COVID ICU. It’s one thing to read about COVID in the medical literature, but to be actually seeing real patients with this disease is another experience altogether. There are many things I’ve learned, but for this video, I’ll focus on the top 10 that stand out to me.

So, starting at the bottom with the number 10 is symptoms. The most common symptoms I’m seeing are fever, cough, shortness of breath, and body/muscle aches. I haven’t seen many patients with the other symptoms we often hear about, such as loss of taste and smell, nausea, and diarrhea. I have not seen any rashes related to COVID, probably because I only see adult patients. I will say that even though confusion and delirium are widespread in the ICU in general, there does seem to be more of that with COVID.

Top 10 Things I learned Treating Covid Patients

Many COVID patients who require hospitalization have low levels of vitamin D., Which is consistent with what we are seeing in a lot of recent studies that have been coming out. But of course, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, so does it just so happen that many patients who have moderate or severe COVID happen to have low vitamin D levels? Maybe, maybe not. And does that mean that we should give every hospitalized patient with COVID big doses of vitamin D when they hit the door? Maybe.

And does that mean people, in general, should supplement with vitamin D? And what is the ideal level of vitamin D for the population, especially when it comes to COVID-19? Should we target the current general recommendation for everyone, irrespective of COVID, with a goal of 20 ng/ml? Or should we aim for higher, like 30, or perhaps 40? No one knows for sure the answers to these questions. But studies are being done on this. And as we speak, there are 3 RCT for vitamin D and COVID.

Top 10 Things I learned Treating Coronavirus Patients

This virus is VERY contagious. One of my patients was in the hospital for unrelated reasons. She actually had sepsis due to an infarcted gut, meaning part of her intestine was not getting enough blood flow. It was severe enough to the point that some of the tissue in her intestine had died. When this happens, the bacteria that live in the intestine can invade the intestine’s walls and get into the bloodstream. This is bad news because these bacteria can then spread throughout the body, known as sepsis.

Besides antibiotics, this is treated with surgery, where the dead gut tissue is removed, meaning part of the intestine is taken out. And this is what happened to her. And she got better. But after she initially got better, she started having more difficulty with her breathing. Her oxygen levels were dropping, despite us giving her more and more oxygen. So we got a CXR and later a CT scan of the chest, which showed bilateral infiltrates, meaning areas of inflammation in both lungs. And this is the pattern we typically see with COVID pneumonia, where it tends to go to the periphery of the lungs and more so at the bottom of the lungs.

Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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