Oxygen therapy boosts heart health in people with long COVID

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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Imagine a special kind of treatment where you breathe in pure oxygen under high pressure. This treatment is known as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).

It’s usually used for healing stubborn wounds, treating divers with decompression sickness, and for various other medical conditions.

Now, scientists are exploring how this oxygen treatment can help people who are struggling with symptoms long after they’ve recovered from COVID-19. This condition is known as “long COVID” or “post-COVID syndrome”.

Long COVID and Its Effects

Most people who get COVID-19 recover fully. But about 10-20% of them continue to feel sick long after the virus is gone.

These people have long COVID. They often feel tired, have trouble breathing, suffer from body aches, and have a long list of other symptoms.

This can include problems with their hearts, making them more likely to develop heart disease.

How Can Oxygen Therapy Help?

Professor Marina Leitman and her team at the Sackler School of Medicine and the Shamir Medical Centre in Israel decided to investigate if HBOT could help people with long COVID.

They conducted a trial with 60 patients who had been dealing with long COVID symptoms for at least three months.

The patients were divided into two groups. One group received HBOT, and the other group received a pretend treatment (this is often called a “sham” procedure in scientific studies).

All patients had the treatment five times a week for eight weeks.

During each HBOT session, patients breathed in 100% pure oxygen through a mask for 90 minutes. The pressure was twice as high as the normal air pressure we experience every day.

The patients in the sham group breathed in normal air (which is about 21% oxygen) at regular air pressure.

Does the Treatment Work?

To see if the treatment worked, the scientists used a special heart test called echocardiography. This test looks at how well the heart contracts and relaxes.

The better it can do this, the healthier it is. The measure they used is called the Global Longitudinal Strain (GLS), and a healthy heart usually has a GLS around -20%.

When the trial started, almost half of the patients had a lower-than-normal GLS, suggesting their hearts weren’t working as well as they should be.

After the eight weeks of treatment, the patients who received HBOT showed significant improvement in their GLS scores. However, those who received the sham treatment did not have a significant change.

Professor Leitman noted that many of the patients with low GLS scores had normal results on other heart tests.

This suggests that those other tests might not be good enough to detect heart problems in people with long COVID.

What’s Next?

Professor Leitman believes that HBOT could be a promising treatment for patients with long COVID. Still, she says that we need more studies to figure out which patients will benefit the most from this therapy.

Even though we need more research, this study gives hope to people struggling with long COVID.

It offers a potential new way to help their hearts get back to normal. So in the future, we might see more doctors using oxygen therapy as a treatment for long COVID patients.

If you care about lung health, please read studies about why Viagra may be useful in treating lung diseases, and scientists find herbal supplements to treat lung cancer.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about gum disease linked to impaired lung function, and results showing extracts from wild plants can inhibit the COVID-19 virus.

The study was presented at EACVI 2023, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

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