Active treatment to fight disease

Active treatment to fight disease includes intensive treatment (the kind of high-technology care usually provided in hospitals’ intensive care units) and non-intensive treatment.


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Intensive treatment

Ventilators, commonly called respirators, are machines that can breathe for a patient if lung function is inadequate. 

This is done through a tube inserted into the windpipe via the nose or mouth or through a tracheostomy, a hole cut in to the windpipe at the front of the neck.

Of the two procedures, passing a tube through the nose or mouth is the least comfortable because it prevents the patient from speaking and eating, and it triggers the gag reflex. 

The tracheostomy, on the other hand, requires anesthesia and surgery but eventually allows the patient to take food by mouth and to talk for short periods off the ventilator.

A ventilator is particularly helpful in getting a patient through a short-term crisis. It also has risks and can cause complications.

Kidney dialysis involves the use of a machine to clean the blood when the kidneys no longer function properly. Dialysis takes several hours several times a week, and can be quite uncomfortable.

Dialysis can be used on a temporary basis while a patient recovers from an acute illness or awaits a kidney transplant, or on a permanent basis in the case of more serious kidney problems. Complete kidney failure is a common part of the dying process.

  • Invasive monitoring involves the use of intravenous lines (to administer drugs or fluid and to take blood samples) and catheters (to monitor heart and kidney function).
  • Electrical pacemakers and other devices can be used to support the failing heart.
  • Major surgery can be used to restore function or relieve pain.
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Non-intensive treatment

  • Antibiotics (available in pill form or by injection) to treat infections
  • Blood transfusions
  • Chemotherapy (a drug treatment) and radiation (such as X-ray therapy) to fight cancer

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