Dr. Donald Griesdale, VGH anesthesiologist/ICU specialist

It’s a lot easier to do when patients are conscious; when heavily sedated, they can’t cooperate with the turning. If they are obese, it’s a whole lot harder for health professionals to flip patients.

Comparison of the physiological effects of supine (face up) and prone (face down) positioning in hospitalized patients. Source: cmaj.ca Nov. 11, 2020

Prone positioning has been used in hospitalized pneumonia patients and those with acute respiratory distress syndrome for a few decades but it really came into vogue about seven years ago, after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a reduction in mortality among patients who were in prone positions for most of the day.

Research on its use during the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing but Griesdale said his observations are that it’s helpful.

“Anecdotally, my impression is that proning can help with oxygenation in patients ventilated or breathing on their own.”