LSU Health doctor involved in COVID-19 study on hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 10:05 PM CDT
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Hyperbaric chambers
Hyperbaric chambers(Source: Dr. Keith Van Meter, LSU Health New Orleans)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -An LSU doctor who is an expert in hyperbaric medicine is part of a team launching a study that will use hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help coronavirus patients.

It is well-established that COVID-19 attacks the lungs and causes shortness of breath.

Dr. Keith Van Meter, LSU Health New Orleans Chief of Emergency Medicine, discussed how the study will work.

"It is a way where the entire patient is pressurized in a comfortable medical setting. It's actually a chamber,” Van Meter said.

Specifically, patients and medical staff would be inside a hyperbaric chamber.

"The patient would just comfortably be in a, almost like it's a ‘space head’ suit, you know, the headpiece of a space suit,” said Van Meter.

Study participants would take in high levels of oxygen, said Van Meter.

"The patient can then by their own breathing bring enriched oxygen at high percentage points, you know, even more than 100 percent, at 200 percent or even 250 or 300 percent into the lung and because it's such a rich concentration it can diffuse quite easily through all of the broken down parts of the lung that are water-logged with edema or inflammatory infiltrates,” Van Meter stated.

It is a non-invasive procedure.

"Very sick patients could be treated in there safely and of course the chambers would have to be affixed to a hospital, they can’t be out in the community standing alone,” said Van Meter.

He said the principal investigators for the study are LSU graduates who did fellowships in hyperbaric medicine at LSU. The study will be done at a local hospital.

"The attempt of the study is to show that you can catch a patient just before they're starting to have extreme respiratory trouble and prevent them from having to go to the ICU and prevent them from having to be intubated,” said Van Meter.

And he added that hyperbaric medicine has been used for years to treat patients with various medical conditions.

"Very useful therapy in many areas that are not getting enough oxygen like wounds, like crush injury,” Van Meter said.

He said many patients cold receive the oxygen therapy at once because hyperbaric chambers are large, and Van Meter thinks the study could be completed quickly.

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