In Alexandria, the ninth-largest city in the US state of Louisiana, oxygen treatments are being used to treat severe respiratory distress caused by the coronavirus infection. In recent weeks, researchers have found that hyperbaric oxygen therapy, also known as HBOT, can be effective in treating respiratory distress symptoms among Covid-19 patients. Hence, a reputed Louisiana hospital decided to give this alternative therapy a try in order to bring some relief to those suffering from extreme cases of the Covid-19 infection.
Oxygen treatments of various kinds have been reasonably effective against the coronavirus. In many cases, oxygen treatments such as HBOT therapy are being used to minimize the need for ventilators. This is because ventilators have been in heavy demand ever since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and physicians around the world fear a shortage of ventilators in the upcoming months, as more and more people contract the virus. One hospital in Louisiana is therefore making use of HBOT therapy to keep patients from being placed on a ventilator.
Opelousas General Health System is the Alexandria hospital that is paving the way for the effective use of HBOT therapy for Covid-19 treatment. This alternative treatment option is offered by the hospital to patients who, despite being on high-flow oxygen, are still breathing rapidly without being able to get sufficient oxygen into their system. In such cases, HBOT therapy is used to counteract some of the damage caused by the virus, without the need for a ventilator or other medical equipment that are currently in high demand.
Dr. Kerry Thibodeaux, M.D. of Opelousas General said that some of the patients who have been admitted to the hospital with a Covid-19 infection have fallen seriously ill as the virus seems to have affected their ability to effectively carry oxygen throughout the body. The virus also causes severe and lasting damage to the lungs in certain cases. These factors, taken together, can lead to severe respiratory distress and oxygen deprivation in the worst affected patients, according to Dr. Thibodeaux.
A Brief Overview of Hyperbaric Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an alternative treatment option that has been around for several years. However, so far, HBOT therapy has never been used to treat patients suffering from coronavirus infection. Usually, HBOT therapy is prescribed to patients living with various neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and cerebral palsy.
Hyperbaric medicine is also frequently used by athletes to recover quickly from common sporting injuries such as torn ligaments, sprains, head injuries, and pulled muscles. Carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, diabetic foot ulcers, and gas embolism are some of the other medical conditions for which HBOT therapy is widely prescribed by physicians.
Patients receiving hyperbaric treatment need to enter a sealed vessel made from plastic or metal, commonly known as the hyperbaric chamber. Inside this chamber, the patient is administered 100 percent pure oxygen under heightened atmospheric pressure levels. Typically, a hyperbaric chamber features a mattress, a small medicine cabinet, and a sealed, clear-glass window for external supervision.
The air pressure inside such a chamber can be anywhere between two to five times as high as normal pressure at sea level. This heightened atmospheric pressure facilitates the quick dissolution of the oxygen into the bodily fluids of the patient, which in turn improves oxygen circulation in the body.
HBOT therapy increases the oxygen supply in the human body without needing to depend on red blood cells. Enhanced oxygen supply is one of the key factors that can counteract the damage caused by the coronavirus infection. Hence, physicians and medical researchers are optimistic about the potential of HBOT therapy with regard to the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
The Results of HBOT Treatment
Dr. Thibodeaux said that once patients enter the oxygen-saturated hyperbaric chamber, their respiratory rate slows down eventually and they begin to feel a lot better. This has made the doctors at Opelousas General eager to help patients around the country with HBOT therapy, which they believe could go a long way in providing much-needed respiratory relief. For now, the hospital only offers hyperbaric therapy as an option for patients who are on high-flow oxygen and are still struggling to breathe.
A special hyperbaric team evaluates all the patients who are admitted to the hospital with coronavirus infections. Then, the ones who need HBOT therapy the most are given first priority, and the treatment commences. As the use of hyperbaric therapy to treat Covid-19 is considered ‘off-label’, this requires the explicit consent of the patient being treated.
According to Dr. Thibodeaux, every patient who has so far received HBOT therapy for Covid-19 at Opelousas General has seen positive results. Immediate symptomatic relief and a much slower respiratory rate are some of the outcomes of HBOT therapy, with regard to Covid-19 patients.
Many of the critically ill patients who had received this alternative treatment for coronavirus infection at Opelousas General have already been discharged, after making a full recovery. This has made doctors optimistic about more widespread use of HBOT therapy to improve the condition of Covid-19 patients across the country.