What Is Proning? Method That Increases Person’s Oxygen Level

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The prone method is when a person lies down on their chest and stomach (prone position), and takes deep breathes. It is a scientifically proven method that improves a person’s oxygen supply.

The prone method is increasing in popularity as India struggles with the second wave of COVID-19. As the shortage of oxygen and hospital beds persists, the method was suggested so that people could increase their oxygen levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, it helps people increase their oxygen level and helps them breathe easier.

How Does Proning Work?

COVID-19 damages a person’s red blood cells, thus COVID-19 positive patients have low oxygen level. The prone method helps improve ventilation and increases a person’s oxygen level. Senior Director of BLKC Centre for Critical Care, Delhi, Dr Rajesh Pande spoke to a news channel about how the method works.

  1. Pande said that “When someone is put in the prone position, the heart rests on the breast bone and gives space to the lungs to expand.”
  2. Since the lungs have more space to expand, it increases the airflow to the back region of the lung. Pande described the back region as “where the blood circulation is the most”.
  3. Due to the combination of better blood circulation and more oxygen, effective oxygenation takes place.

When Should The Prone Method Be Used?

The government guidelines said that the prone method should be used if a person’s oxygen level is below 94. “Proning is required only when the patient feels difficulty in breathing and the SpO2 decreases below 94,” said the government guidelines.

95 per cent is considered as the normal oxygen saturation level. If a person’s oxygen level dips below 94, then it indicates that there is a deficiency in oxygen reaching the tissues.

It added that “Timely proning and maintaining ventilation could save many lives.” The guideline also mentioned that monitoring a person’s oxygen level, temperature, blood sugar, and blood pressure is important for home isolation.

It is important to note that for critical patients, using the prone method is not a cure. The purpose of proning is to give time for medicines to act for critical patients. Consultant Intensivist at Manipal Hospital Whitefield Dr Rajavardhan R said that patients should not only depend on proning if medical help is available.

Government Recommendations For Prone Method

For people that are home isolating and using the prone method, the following was recommended.

  1. Place one pillow below the neck
  2. Place one or two pillows below the chest through the upper thighs
  3. Place two pillows below the shins
  4. Do not lie in the prone position after having a meal
  5. Since lying in one position for more than 30 minutes is not recommended. A person should change position every 30 minutes from the prone position to lying on each side, then sitting up, before lying in the prone position again.

Who Should Not Lie In The Prone Position?

Patients with heart conditions, unstable spine, pelvic fractures, and pregnant women should not lie in the prone position. People who have recently had abdominal surgery or a spinal injury should also refrain from lying in the prone position.