The Argentine institution specialized in infectious diseases continues to provide itself for the care of patients infected with COVID-19. It is the third hospital in the country that incorporates a hyperbaric chamber to study the possible impact of Hyperbaric Oxygen in reducing recovery times and the need for respirators during the pandemic.

Today, there was installed a new Hyperbaric Chamber in the Muñiz Hospital. The medical device will be used to develop a clinical trial that aims to analyze the effect that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy could have to decrease the progression of hypoxemia (low level of oxygen in the blood), respiratory disease, the need for respirators and recovery times in patients infected with COVID-19.

This multi-center research protocol is also carried out at the Santojanni Hospital and at the Central Hospital of San Isidro. The three institutions received Revitalair® 430 hyperbaric chambers that were donated by the company BioBarica.

The main investigator of the clinical trial at Hospital Muñiz is the Head of Intensive Care, Dr. Eleonora Cunto. The protocol has the endorsement of the Argentine Association of Hyperbaric Medicine and Research (AAMHEI) and the coordination of its president, Dr. Mariana Cannellotto.

The Muñiz Hospital is located in Parque Patricios and is the health center with the largest number of patients with COVID-19. Recently, the institution was remodeled to face the peak of contagion in the pandemic. In this context, 136 beds were added for patients with intermediate-grade Coronavirus.

It should be noted that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has approved indications in different infectious pathologies that are very frequent in the Hospital Muñiz, such as leprosy, necrotizing infections, abscesses, anaerobic infections, chronically infected wounds, diabetic foot, mucormycosis. It was even shown experimentally that it strengthens the immune system and decreases the viral load of HIV. For this reason, the hyperbaric chamber will be of great benefit to public health and patient care during and after the pandemic.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and how would it help COVID-19 infected patients?

Hyperbaric Oxygenation Treatment consists of breathing high concentrations of oxygen (O2) within a pressurized chamber above normal atmospheric pressure. This generates hyperoxia that increases the volume of dissolved oxygen in the blood plasma. The greatest diffusion of oxygen reaches all tissues, including those affected, and a series of therapeutic physiological effects occur.

In patients infected with COVID-19, Hyperbaric Treatment could be used in those with respiratory hypoxemic failure who do not have pulmonary contraindications. This is because it produces an increase in lung oxygenation and increases the immune response. It can contribute to recovering the acute hypoxic phase (without oxygen) of the disease, reducing the inflammatory phase, promoting recovery, and speeding up the times for the release of hospital beds.

So far, no cases of COVID-19 treated with hyperbaric oxygenation have been reported in Argentina. It is a practice that is already documented in other countries, so this protocol sets an important precedent in research into possible treatments for the disease.

As background, during the first quarter of the year, in a hospital in Wuhan, Dr. Zhong Xiaoling treated 5 patients infected with COVID-19 with a Hyperbaric Chamber. After the first session, he reported that dyspnea and chest pain were reduced. After the second, the respiratory rate decreased and the difficulty in breathing eased more slowly. From the fifth day of treatment, arterial oxygen values ​​were significantly recovered. Lung improvement was evident and CT scans showed lower levels of tissue inflammation.