The Buteyko Breathing Method Improves Ventilator Outcomes

We are currently seeing historic levels of ventilator use and intubation in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lung Hyperventilation

Respiratory therapists have been propelled onto the front lines in the COVID-19 battle. In New York City, Fred Brown (RRT) confirms that less is more when it comes to ventilator management. His work in the Intensive Care Unit means caring for multiple ventilator patients each day, where he is applying a gentler approach.

Once on a Ventilator, Eight out of Ten Patients Didn’t Make It

Early research from the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested that 88% of COVID-19 patients placed on ventilators in New York did not survive.

Proning Is a Good Start

Mr. Brown treats COVID-19 patients by adopting two promising avenues: proning, and treating patients on ventilators with lower oxygen volume and lower pressure.

O2: Less Is More

Higher volumes of oxygen (or any gas) from mechanical ventilation promote over breathing, so it is essential to get patients back to a normal, non-mechanized breathing pattern as gently and quickly as their condition allows. A ventilator supplying less volume helps the patient reduce carbon dioxide loss, and limits the dangers associated with hyperventilation of the lungs. This, in turn, can cut down the time the patient must be on a ventilator and on life support.

Cell Hypoxia and the Bohr Effect

Dr. Buteyko’s breakthrough relied on mainstream biochemistry. His research explored the far-reaching effects of chronic over breathing, following the pivotal scientific groundwork laid by Danish scientist and Nobel Prize recipient Christian Bohr. The “Bohr Effect” proved that hypocapnia (or a deficiency of C02) disrupts the pH of the blood by complicating the transfer of oxygen into cells.

CO2 Is Not a Waste Gas

Dr. Buteyko discovered that chronic hyperventilation, often accompanied by mouth breathing, is common in modern people and it results in a poor balance of CO2 and O2.

Eliminating Hyperventilation, On or Off a Ventilator

The Buteyko Method is used in hospitals throughout Russia and widely in the United Kingdom and Australia to train asthmatics who seek non-drug therapy for controlling their disease. Several controlled trials indicate the Buteyko Method is highly effective at reducing medication use.

Hyperventilation and Homeostasis

As C02 deprivation impacts pH and metabolism, it also interferes with immune function. A pillar of Buteyko’s work is that the body creates defense mechanisms to protect itself and, using compensatory homeostasis, develops what we commonly categorize as disease states.

Compensatory Respiratory Homeostasis

At the turn of the 19th century a whirlwind of technological advancement produced, among other advancements, experiments demonstrating a surprising result: excessive ventilation of the lungs for several minutes led to the deaths of healthy lab animals. Likewise, lung ventilation significantly exceeding normal values can lead to the death of a healthy person within 10 minutes.*

High Oxygen Is Obvious — and Wrong

Dr. Buteyko’s work demonstrated that arterial hypoxemia (lack of oxygen in blood cells) is not due to a lack of oxygen directly going into blood cells, which is what occurs when we “add oxygen” — but rather insufficient air intake to the zone of gas exchange, i.e. the lungs.

Lung Surface Area and Gas Exchange Illustrated

Basic biology texts note that normal adult lungs provide an area of 75 square meters for the exchange of 02 and C02 to occur (via 600 million aveoli).

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