Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – also known as HBOT – has gained great popularity in recent years among physicians, patients, and healthcare workers alike. Usually, this alternative medical procedure is used to treat ailments such as traumatic brain injury, diabetic foot ulcer, carbon monoxide poisoning, and cerebral palsy. However, since the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, various physicians and medical researchers have also suggested using HBOT to treat patients suffering from the Covid-19 infection.
The HMS Director on KNX in Depth
The Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medical Solutions (HMS), Dr. Alan Katz, recently appeared on KNX in Depth, a Los Angeles-based radio show on CBS News Radio. Charles Feldman and Mike Simpson were the hosts of this show. The topic of discussion on the radio interview was the potential use of HBOT in treating the novel coronavirus and related health issues. On the 13th of April, this radio show was broadcast live to more than 1.2 million listeners in the US.
During one of the segments of the show, Dr. Katz explained that physicians were currently treating Covid-19 in ways similar to the usual treatment for pneumonia. However, some experts have suggested that the novel coronavirus should instead be treated as pure hypoxia, which is a condition that causes severe oxygen deprivation in the human body.
Hypoxia can affect either a part of the body or the whole of it. Some of the common physiological effects of hypoxia include severe headaches, pulmonary hypertension, tachycardia, breathlessness, and loss of consciousness.
Dr. Katz explained that Covid-19 does not cause a ventilation problem, nor does it cause the lungs to fail. Instead, the problem seems to be that the blood’s ability to carry oxygen is reduced during the infection. Moreover, the interface of the alveoli, also known as the lung sacs, seems to be malfunctioning, thus further diminishing the supply of oxygen in the body.
Therefore, if more and more Covid-19 patients are to be saved, then these are the problems to which solutions need to be found. On the CBS radio show, the doctor further elaborated that the viral particles of Covid-19 quickly attach themselves to the lungs of the infected human.
This attachment with the lung vasculature causes fluid leaks, as a result of which a barrier is formed that prevents oxygen from being transferred to the bloodstream from the alveoli. Hence, oxygen can no longer be effectively carried throughout the body and brain of the affected patient, which creates oxygen deprivation and leads to hypoxia.
According to Dr. Katz, the Covid-19 virus is “destroying the ‘heme’ portion of the hemoglobin”, which is an issue that can only be solved by increasing the flow of oxygen in the patient’s bloodstream. This, however, cannot be achieved through ventilation alone. After all, a ventilator can give a patient some extra oxygen, but if the additional oxygen is not effectively transported to the rest of the body, then it will be of little use in the process of recovery.
The Role of Hyperbaric Therapy in Coronavirus Recovery
Many healthcare professionals, including Dr. Katz, believe that HBOT sessions help increase the amount of oxygen in the patient’s bloodstream by a significant margin without depending on the availability of hemoglobin. Moreover, hyperbaric sessions have been known to minimize and control the inflammatory cytokine storm commonly seen in Covid-19 patients.
Therefore many experts and researchers hope that the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy will be instrumental in reversing the need for ventilation and shutting down an inflammatory response in infected patients.
This will put an end to the ventilator shortage currently debilitating the healthcare system while providing patients with an alternative avenue for treatment and recovery. Slowly, more and more hospitals in countries around the world are making use of HBOT to administer oxygen to patients suffering from coronavirus-induced hypoxia.
Dr. Katz believes that there should be more in-depth research and investigation into the efficacy of HBOT for Covid-19 because patients who have undergone this therapy have reported lower rates of inflammation and hypoxia symptoms. HBOT enables the blood, as well as other bodily fluids such as plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, to effectively carry oxygen to various organs of the body, thus allowing the oxygen to dissolve quickly into deprived tissues and facilitate the process of angiogenesis.
In 1918, HBOT was used effectively to combat the deadly Spanish flu, which was the major pandemic of the 20th century. Thus, HBOT is used to treat communicable diseases is neither new nor unheard of. Clinical trials are currently ongoing throughout the country, hoping to determine once and for all whether or not HBOT can be used to treat the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Katz told his interviewers that after a few HBOT sessions, patients would no longer need ventilation and would be able to recover quickly from the infection. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy would also help minimize inflammation and related symptoms among patients.
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