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COVID-19 patients receiving experimental treatment

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Jamie Gould, RN, and Joseph Coyle, a medical technologist for UnityPoint — Marshalltown finish administering a convalescent plasma treatment. The process is being used to reduce the symptoms of COVID-19 in patients.

An experimental COVID-19 treatment is available at UnityPoint — Marshalltown.

Hospital physicians and staff are administering convalescent plasma. So far, three patients have received the treatment.

Director of Nursing Jen Arneson said the patients remain in isolation in their rooms.

“There is no need to be placed in a separate unit,” she said. “It is the same procedure and support as giving any type of blood product. It takes approximately two hours to deliver the plasma and the intent is to supply antibodies indefinitely for the patient to fight COVID-19.”

Convalescent plasma is blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood. The treatment is intended to boost the ability of people’s immune systems to fight the virus.

It is administered through a needle inserted into a vein in an arm.

“People who have recovered from COVID-19 do so in part it is believed due to the development of antibodies, which are capable of fighting the virus that causes the illness,” said Chief Medical Officer Russell Adams. “Convalescent plasma is the liquid portion of the blood containing the antibodies. It’s believed that giving a transfusion of plasma of this type will lessen the severity of the illness for patients that have COVID-19.”

Adams was able to register UnityPoint — Marshalltown and UnityPoint — Allen in Waterloo in the program which is available through the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“Dr. Pradeep Ramesh and I were accepted as principal investigators, which subsequently permits us to order the convalescent plasma,” Adams said.

The plasma is only available to hospitalized patients. Adams said patients need to meet certain criteria to even be considered for the treatment.

First, Adams said the patient’s attending physician needs to contact him or Ramesh and submit medical records. After Adams and Ramesh review the records, they discuss the case with the attending physician. If they consider it appropriate, Adams and Ramesh submit the patient’s name and medical information into the database for review and acceptance. If the patient is accepted, the doctors receive electronic notification and the order is placed in the medical record.

“When the plasma is available, the patient receives the transfusion,” Adams said. “We provide four-hour, seven-day and 30-day updates to the database regarding the patient’s response to the treatment.”

He said infectious disease experts believe the infusion of convalescent plasma reduces the severity and duration of COVID-19. There are no other illnesses this procedure can be used to treat.

Other methods used at UnityPoint — Marshalltown to treat patients with COVID-19 include providing supplemental oxygen and an antiviral called Remdesivir, along with proning a patient to improve oxygenation — using precise, safe motions to turn a patient from his or her back onto his or her stomach.

Some of the risks of the convalescent plasma treatment are possible infections caused by transfusions, allergic reactions and damage to the lungs. However, the risk is low and donated plasma is tested for safety.

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Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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