Video summary: Dr. Jason Sonners about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in COVID-19

May 6, 2020

COVID-19 is a virus that has impacted many lives. This virus is different from others analyzed in the past. There is scientific evidence that the way it affects lung tissue is more related to cellular oxygenation than to the generation of respiratory distress.

Most of the infected patients do not have respiratory symptoms typical of distress, they maintain the heart rate and respiratory rate in relatively normal values. However, the cells are not able to properly oxygenate themselves. The mechanism by which this happens is not reliably known, but it is known that it affects the ability to distribute oxygen to the red blood cells and, therefore, maintain normal oxygen saturation levels.

Oxygen is known to need a pressure gradient to enter the respiratory tract. When breathing air in a normal atmosphere, the air generates a pressure that is not felt but is necessary for the generation of that gradient in which the concentration of oxygen outside is greater than inside the body.

Knowing that the viral mechanism of infection directly affects plasma oxygen levels, Dr. Sonners (like other professionals) postulates the use of hyperbaric chambers as a treatment, especially in the early stage of the disease.

The hyperbaric chamber creates an environment in which the oxygen concentration reaches levels close to 100%. In this way, the oxygen gradient is increased, allowing and stimulating the diffusion of oxygen to the respiratory tract. This way, more oxygen can be supplied to the circulatory system, its concentration in it, regardless of the hemoglobin concentration. This is because of Henry's Law, which establishes that as the pressure increases, the levels of dissolved gases increase too.

Mechanical ventilators assist the mechanical part of respiration, but using hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the flow of oxygen through the alveolar membrane.

Dr. Sonners explains in this video that a study to evaluate the efficacy of HBOT use is about to be carried out on around 40 patients in New York City. However, the scientific bases of hyperbaric medicine endorse its use as therapy.

The use of HBOT, especially in the early stages of the disease, would allow the patient to maintain adequate levels of oxygenation, giving him time to heal and recover from the virus itself.