Featured in Fortune Magazine:

In a world full of acronyms—NASA, scuba, and, yes, COVID, among others—it may seem imponderable that one of the most well-known has gone largely unmentioned during discussions of the novel coronavirus. I mean, how could HBO get left behind?

The answer is both complicated and promising. But at its heart is this: As it pertains to the virus, HBO is most certainly not something you can find with your remote.

Rather, we’re talking about the acronym for a treatment that we’ve used for nearly a century to address various maladies: hyperbaric oxygen, or HBO in the medical shorthand. And although the research is still young, the early results from HBO’s use on COVID-19 patients range from encouraging to surprisingly strong.

“It’s possible that hyperbaric oxygen therapy could cut the mortality of COVID-19 by more than half,” coauthor Dr. David Lee told me in an email exchange. “But our study was small, and funding is needed for a larger, multicenter randomized clinical trial.” 

So what’s the COVID connection? As we know, patients with coronavirus often develop pneumonia or respiratory issues, and in severe cases oxygen levels can plummet, sometimes precipitously. Rather than place patients on a ventilator, where mortality rates can be quite high, one option may be to employ HBO therapy earlier in the patient’s course, in hope of improving their oxygenation enough to avoid mechanical ventilation altogether.

There are likely additional benefits. In both animal and human studies, HBO has been shown to reduce inflammation and inhibit cytokine synthesis, which could prove critical if it helps to mitigate the deadly cytokine storm of the immune system that can cause multi-organ injury in some COVID-19 patients.

Because the Food and Drug Administration has not granted emergency authorization for HBO treatment in COVID-19, some physicians are bravely using the chambers “off-label” to treat small numbers of patients—and, anecdotally at least, they appear to be having some success. At the Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health System, more than 20 moderately or severely ill patients underwent HBO therapy, and the majority of them went home with good outcomes. “Our medical staff embraced this, and we haven’t looked back,” said Dr. Susan Kemp, medical director of the Christus Hyperbaric and Wound Care Center. “The patients all tell me they don’t feel like they have to work to breathe in the chamber. They don’t want to get out!” Kemp added that HBO is not a stand-alone therapy, “so we are being purposeful in patient selection for those who we feel are not responding to other treatments.”

Read the full article here: https://fortune.com/2020/08/11/covid-19-treatment-hbo-oxygen-therapy-coronavirus/

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