A small study found that ventilators can be safely split between two COVID-19 patients for up to two days—a major finding for hospitals struggling to handle the influx of critically ill patients despite limited equipment. 

At the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan began having selected pairs of surgery patients with healthy lungs share a ventilator. This approach freed up as many machines as possible for COVID-19 patients, but some medical experts criticized it, saying it could worsen outcomes.

The few existing studies of so-called ventilator-splitting did not test it in patients with the type of lung injuries seen with COVID-19. However, a new study involving six critically ill COVID-19 patients at the Manhattan hospital, who were paired up based on similarities in breathing needs, found ventilator sharing was a viable option for up to two days.

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