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Louisiana hospital using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to treat extreme cases of COVID-19

Source: Opelousas General Health System
Source: Opelousas General Health System(KALB)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:05 PM CDT
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Oxygen treatments can be an effective way to treat COVID-19 patients suffering from severe respiratory distress.

One hospital in Louisiana is using the treatment to prevent patients from being placed on a ventilator.

Opelousas General Health System is paving the way when it comes to COVID-19.

The hospital is offering a new treatment option for patients that are on high-flow oxygen and still breathing rapidly, unable to get enough oxygen to their system.

“Some of these patients, the ones who are really, severely ill, the virus somehow seems to affect their ability to carry oxygen effectively and also at the same time, there’s the damage to the lungs the virus causes," said Kerry Thibodeaux, M.D., F.A.C.S, Certified Wound Care Specialist Physician at Opelousas General.

They've begun using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a type of treatment that's been around for several years but has never been used on COVID-19 patients.

“We place a patient inside a chamber of some sort and then enclosing, as it seals up then you pressurize it with 100% oxygen," said Thibodeaux.

The treatment delivers oxygen to the body without having to depend on the red blood cells.

“Once you get them in the chamber and pressurize it and they start to become saturated with oxygen, every patient’s respiratory rate slows down significantly and they actually start to feel a whole lot better," said Thibodeaux.

Earlier this month was when medical professionals at Opelousas General considered the use of hyperbaric therapy for patients who are on high-flow oxygen, still struggling to breathe.

“We were very optimistic that it would help them but nobody other than the Chinese have actually done hyperbaric therapy for the hypothesis related to COVID-19," said Thibodeaux.

Now patients who are admitted to the hospital requiring high-flow oxygen are evaluated by the hyperbaric team.

They use oxygen therapy in what's known as an off-label situation which requires the consent of the patient.

So far, each patient that's received treatment has seen positive results.

“All six patients have responded very well to therapy, with some of them being discharged already," said Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux says each patient showed a much slower respiratory rate and felt immediate symptomatic relief.

With this type of treatment, critically ill patients can avoid being placed on a ventilator. A procedure local M.D. David Kalantar says can have lasting effects.

“The high pressure used in the ventilator has done some damage so we’re just using it in the worst-case scenario," said Kalantar.

He recommends breathing exercises such as taking at least five deep breaths an hour to strengthen the lungs.

If you're sick at home with COVID-19, he says home remedies such as zinc and lemon juice are your best bet.

Kalantar adds it's crucial that if you've had the novel coronavirus to keep the plasma so that you can donate it to help find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 KALB. All rights reserved.

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