Original research

Observational study of therapeutic bronchoscopy in critical hypoxaemic ventilated patients with COVID-19 at Mediclinic Midstream Private Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa

EM Taban, GA Richards


Background. Flexible fibreoptic bronchoscopy (FFB) has been used for years as a diagnostic and therapeutic adjunct for the diagnosis of potential airway obstruction as a cause of acute respiratory failure or in the management of hypoxaemia ventilated patients. In these circumstances, it is useful to evaluate airway patency or airway damage and for the management of atelectasis.

Objectives. To evaluate the use of FFB as a rescue therapy in mechanically ventilated patients with severe hypoxaemic respiratory failure caused by COVID-19.

Methods. We enrolled 14 patients with severe and laboratory confirmed COVID-19 who were admitted at Mediclinic Midstream Private Hospital intensive care unit in Pretoria, South Africa, in July 2020.

Results. FFB demonstrated the presence of extensive mucus plugging in 64% (n=9/14) of patients after an average of 7.7 days of mechanical ventilation. Oxygenation improved significantly in these patients following FFB despite profound procedural hypoxaemia.

Conclusions. Patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia who have persistent hypoxaemia despite the resolution of inflammatory parameters may respond to FFB with removal of mucus plugs. We propose consideration of an additional pathophysiological acute phenotype of respiratory failure, the mucus type (M-type).

Authors' affiliations

EM Taban, Critical Care Unit, Mediclinic Midstream Critical Care Unit, Private Hospital Pretoria, South Africa.

GA Richards, Department of Critical Care and Pulmonology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Thoracic and Critical Care Medicine 2020;26(4):138-142.

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-12
Date published: 2020-12-01

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