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Hyperbaric Oxygen and Covid-19

Hyperbaric Oxygen and Covid-19

Two years into the COVID-19 crisis

While there have been a lot of developments in terms of prevention and treatment, more cases and new strains of the virus are still popping up. Despite mass vaccinations, stay-at-home orders, and cities going into lockdown, it seems the virus is here to stay.

Alternative treatments have also grown in popularity as prevention for COVID-19. There are quite a few studies that have been done about how hyperbaric oxygen can aid COVID-19 patients.

We also take a look at how patients with severe cases may be able to avoid ventilators with the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. When we breathe at a normal pace, the body takes in oxygen to reach around 96% to 98% oxygenation in the body. This oxygen goes into our blood cells, which provide energy for our cells, tissues, and organs to perform basic bodily functions.

The oxygen we inhale is also responsible for healing injuries, infections, and damaged tissues in the body. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves stepping into a hyperbaric chamber and breathing in pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. This provides the body with up to five times more oxygen, injecting it into the plasma and encouraging better circulation and blood flow.

With the additional oxygenation from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, our damaged cells, tissues, and organs are able to heal much faster. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven to be helpful in improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Covid-19

Severe COVID-19 cases require the use of mechanical ventilators due to the breathing problems that come with more critical cases of the virus. At the height of the pandemic earlier this year, many hospitals around the country were running out of ventilators to use for patients.

Building higher oxygen levels in the tissues of these patients is extremely beneficial to healing and recovery. Severe cases of COVID-19 require being intubated and put on a ventilator. Some studies have aimed to determine if there could be alternatives to using a ventilator for severe cases of COVID-19, and these studies have shown that bringing up oxygen levels in the body is critical to recovery. 

When infected with a severe case of COVID-19, we see extreme tissue damage, inflammation, and fluid in the lungs. This makes gas exchange in the lung tissue very difficult. Due to low oxygen saturation, it’s important to build up oxygen levels in order to aid in recovery. This is where Henry’s law can be applied.

Henry’s law states that the amount of dissolved gas in a liquid is proportional to its partial pressure above the liquid. This means that by increasing the pressure of oxygen, we can increase the gradient which delivers a much higher percentage of oxygen from the lung tissue into circulation.

Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy also delivers more oxygen to deprived tissues and promotes further healing. Allowing patients to oxygenate at a much higher level while fighting the virus is extremely helpful until after recovery.

Reduce inflammation from COVID-19 with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Inflammation is defined as a biological process that the body uses to respond to infection. Whenever a cell becomes damaged, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response by releasing cytokine molecules. This response is characterized by five primary signs; redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function, and although this reaction can help the body fight off invaders, it can also get out of control, resulting in a cytokine storm that damages your body from within.

Whenever we fall sick or get injured, we can expect an inflammatory reaction in the body. It’s not any different for COVID-19. Cytokine storms are a common reaction in the body with severe Covid-19 cases. Patients experiencing this tend to have an enormous inflammatory reaction, which also causes lung tissue damage.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven to reduce inflammation. Making use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in patients may not completely suppress inflammation, but it can tone it down enough to avoid harmful cytokine storms.

A few studies on Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy and COVID-19

If we could avoid having to put patients on ventilators and give them the treatment they need early on, there may be a much higher percentage of positive outcomes in these patients.

A variety of studies are currently being done to examine how hyperbaric oxygen therapy can aid in the recovery of COVID-19 cases. A study was done by Assaf-Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel that took a look at five cases of severe COVID-19.

All of the patients suffered from tachypnoea (abnormally rapid breathing) and low oxygen saturation. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was added to their treatment program in order to avoid having to use a ventilator. Patients received one to six sessions of hyperbaric oxygen with 2.0 atmosphere for 90 minutes in one of two hyperbaric chambers.

Results showed that all five patients made full recoveries without having to make use of a mechanical ventilator. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy showed an increase in oxygen saturation in these patients as well as resolving tachypnoea and lowering inflammation markers.

There are multiple studies currently being conducted to determine the efficiency of hyperbaric oxygen in severe COVID-19 cases. We’ve seen studies being implemented in France, Israel, Chicago, New York, Louisiana, California, and more.

There is wide interest in the subject because Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe, non-invasive, and has a multitude of benefits not just for COVID-19 recovery but for our overall health.

Many of these studies are showing positive results and we are likely to see larger and more comprehensive studies as time goes on.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for treatment of Covid-19

Based on all the information presented, it’s clear there’s definitely potential for hyperbaric oxygen therapy as COVID-19 treatment for severe cases. Increasing oxygen saturation and lowering inflammation with HBOT has proven effective and beneficial.

We also encourage the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy post-infection to help patients improve healing and recovery times.


Vishaal Veerula, MD

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