It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call 2020 the year of novel coronavirus disease 2019, or simply COVID-19.
As world health and public emergency departments battle the epidemic, with a potential vaccine in the offing, several therapeutic concepts are being discussed to offer respite for the affected ones.
One such therapeutic approach comes in the shape of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).
Simply put, HBOT was originally used to treat illnesses arising out of deep-sea diving. It makes use of ambient pressure that rests higher than the atmospheric pressure, accompanied by therapeutic recompression to lessen multiple injurious effects across the human body. The patient is made to enter a chamber running pure oxygen for a fixed duration. Normally, an HBOT session lasts for a couple of hours.
Reportedly, some hospitals and medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients are using HBOT as a last resort.
This post discusses the efficacy of HBOT to reduce respiratory distress, commonly noticed across the majority of COVID-19 cases.
COVID-19 and Respiratory Distress
At the very beginning, for all those severely affected by COVID-19, stem cells formed a significant part of treatment. Initial cases of intravenous transplantation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) showed positive results.
The chief cause of life-threatening situations leading to death or disability for the COVID affected is being linked to an excessive inflammatory response. Further, it led to severe complications within the lungs, particularly in the cytokine storm. As a result, the balance of cytokines was disrupted leading to acute respiratory distress, edema, cardiac injuries, and multiple secondary infections.
Test reports witnessed MSC as a form of treatment for COVID-19 that inhibits the immune system by over activating it, encouraging endogenous repair to facilitate effective treatment.
The possibility of complementary methods to form an effective wall of resistance against inflammation, mitigating chances of cardiorespiratory issues were also taken into account.
How Can HBOT Help?
HBOT for treating severe cases of COVID-19 comes as an approach that is both therapeutic and uniquely versatile.
No wonder it has been gaining fast recognition, as other known forms of treatment for recurring symptoms failed to show any promising results.
So, what difference does HBOT has to offer?
Well, it seems HBOT imparts enhanced metabolism for the patient. As seen earlier, HBOT has been effective in dealing with cases of multiple organ failure, including severely damaged lungs.
As such, HBOT sessions have been a life-saving effort against the most complex cardio-respiratory case, which also includes respiratory distress syndrome. HBOT worked by normalizing the exchange of gas across the lungs and managed to restore the normal pumping of the heart, preventing death.
Similarly, in the case of COVID-19 patients, the chief cause of death is nothing but cardiorespiratory complication. Hence, HBOT can be suggested as a part of clinical trials and investigative forms of treatments to mitigate such problems.
Additionally, HBOT has potential anti-inflammatory properties that help in treating excessive inflammatory response seen in COVID-19 patients. On the other hand, the physiological functions of an HBOT session may contribute towards improving the endogenous production of the corticosteroids and lung surfactants, myocardial contraction, and also carry several antimicrobial effects.
A severe case of COVID-19 often involves ventilation but still fails to cope up with the supply of oxygen needed by the patient. In such cases too, HBOT comes as a worthy option as it runs pure oxygen at high pressure to facilitate faster recovery by restoring the vital body functions.
By comparison, HBOT remains the only trusted and most effective clinical ally to deliver oxygen down to all vital issues to improve cardio-respiratory impairments.
However, apart from a few hospitals, the application of HBOT to treat COVID-19 cases is not known. By all means, a medical professional is at full liberty to suggest HBOT as an investigative form of treatment that has very little side effects to worry about.
Factors to Consider
Undeniably, there are several plus points in favor of HBOT against COVID-19, which include the reversing of respiratory distress symptoms. Nevertheless, its practical application remains debatable.
It is to be understood that determining the right dosage for HBOT to treat COVID-19 is extremely important. As each pathological case differs from the other, certain factors need to be taken into consideration before administering HBOT:
- Real-time parametric monitoring
- Minimizing infections
- Checking for oxygen toxicity
- Preventing over stimulation
For any therapeutic regimen to work without potential side effects, it needs to be tuned to the age of an individual. A clear distinction of regimen based on conditions is also required before resorting to HBOT for treating COVID-19, namely chronic, pre-clinical, and acute.
All such factors namely dosage, toxicity level, and regimen across the three different conditions affect all clinical trials.
Despite such uncertainties, HBOT offers a ray of hope in treating COVID-19 cases in the shape of a therapy. If clinical trials are carried out on a large scale, it can soon develop into a resuscitation tool saving millions of lives in need of a steady supply of oxygen or suffering from high inflammatory response conditions.
Until the medical researchers find a permanent cure for COVID-19, through a vaccine or otherwise, such therapeutic regimens deserves a chance.