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Monday, Aug. 10, 2020

HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY

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CHRISTUS touts success in treatment of COVID-19 patients

As COVID-19 continues to impact our pneumonia, their lungs become inflamed, region and state, physicians are seeking new ways to help hospitalized pa- get into the bloodstream through normal which makes it difficult for oxygen to tients.

One method that has shown tremendous promise at CHRISTUS Shreveport- Bossier Health System is the addition of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to the treatment plans of patients who exhibit severe COVID-19 symptoms. At CHRISTUS, we remain the only health-care system in the region breathing. This is called hypoxia, something many of us have heard about over the course of this pandemic.

When a patient is severely hypoxic, the typical treatment may include intubation, which allows us to deliver more oxygen to the bloodstream with a ventilator. But what caregivers across the country are finding with treating COVID-19 patients with this COVID-19 patients is that once they groundbreaking form of therapy. For patients who may not be responding to other available treatments, this may be an option. Our goal is to keep patients off ventilators and go home to their families. With this option, we have seen more patients reach that goal.

As a wound care physician, I understand the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for my patients. Recently, wound care physicians began to apply these concepts to COVID-19 patients. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is currently considered an off-label therapy when applied to COVID-19 treatment. We are hopeful that as research continues, the data will help make this available to more patients and facilities. When patients are sick with COVID-19 and suffering from are on a ventilator, it becomes very difficult to wean off the ventilator. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one of the few tools that we have that can increase the amount of oxygen a patient’s blood can accept while keeping them off a ventilator.

Patients spend time in specialized tanks that increase oxygen saturation in the blood above what can be obtained typically (here at sea level). This process is called a “dive.” During a dive, a patient breathes pure oxygen in a tank where the air pressure can be increased, resulting in oxygen levels three times higher than normal. Under these conditions, the bloodstream can obtain more oxygen than would be possible at normal air pressure.

Not only does oxygen help all of us breathe better, but it also helps our immune system fight infection, aids in healing and helps decrease inflammation – one of the most important factors in treating COVID-19 patients.

While the patients are in the hyperbaric tank, they are continuously monitored by a physician. They can be comfortable and find the best positioning. Patients can maintain verbal contact with the physician and care team and are able to see their surroundings. We even have a TV with Netflix for patients to watch and relax.

Since severe COVID-19 depletes a patient’s oxygen saturation, causing inflammation throughout the body, and potentially causes organ damage, these dives help maximize the amount of oxygen obtained in the bloodstream. Most hospitalized patients who could hopefully benefit from this therapy have serious symptoms such as drastically decreased oxygen and severe inflammation. These factors are dangerous individually, but when combined, they can be very concerning. The hyperbaric oxygen treatment helps improve both of these issues at a relatively low risk for patients.

What we are seeing with our patients who have hyperbaric oxygen therapy is that they are staying off the ventilator and are going home. At CHRISTUS, we have successfully treated more than 20 patients with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and most of them have been able to recover from oxygen dependency.

This innovative treatment is only possible through the coordination of our hospital care team, the wound care clinic and administration. Our patients are also real heroes during this. Their fight and drive are what continue to inspire me every day. COVID-19 might not be going away as quickly as we had hoped, but I am hopeful that this new treatment will continue to help our patients recover from this virus and go home as we continue to work toward a cure.

Dr. Susan Kemp is the medical director of the CHRISTUS Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center and practices internal medicine at CHRISTUS Primary Care Associates. Dr. Kemp is passionate about combining her knowledge of these two areas of medicine to benefit her beloved community.

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