SHREVEPORT, La. — Christus Health is trying something new to treat COVID-19 by using hyperbaric oxygen therapy to sustain a COVID-19 patient through oxygen deficiency.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn’t new but, using it for this purpose is. Christus Health Shreveport-Bossier is the only facility in the region to try it. It started using the treatment in early May.

Dr. Susan Kemp, medical director of Christus Wound care and Hyperbaric Center, said “It’s one of the few tools that we have that can increase the amount of oxygen your blood can accept.”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first used in the U.S. in the early 20th Century to treat wounds that wouldn’t heal.

“It uses physics to maximize the amount of oxygen you get into your bloodstream,” Kemp explained.

Most of the severe patients have a decreased amount of oxygen in their blood and inflammation. “And to have each of those things individually is very dangerous, but to have them together in the same patient it’s even more concerning,” Kemp said.

A patient’s organs could become involved. The hope is that hypberaric oxygen therapy will help avoid end organ damage.

“Just increasing the amount of oxygen that can feed your organs. We want to try to avoid damage,” said Kemp.

Christus and other medical professionals also want to avoid placing a patient on a ventilator.

“Our goal is to try to help keep anybody off ventilator that we possibly can,” said Kemp.

Using a hyperbaric chamber is just one more tool in a growing playbook to treat COVID-19, she added.

“I think all of us would be very happy if we all just woke up and said yes, we know how to address it. Because most disease processes we do have months and years to help fine tune. And we are not there yet but we’ll get there,” Kemp said.

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