Oxygen for Long Covid
23 June 2023
Most people recover fully from Covid, but up to 20% will experience lingering ailments including fatigue, chest pain, abnormal heart rhythm, and a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular dysfunction. Studies have shown such symptoms have even manifested in people with no previous heart problems.
A team of researchers in Israel ran a study analysing how inhaling highly pressurised pure oxygen affects the heart function of long Covid patients. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing 100% oxygen inside a pressurised chamber, which helps the lungs and oxygen-deprived tissues to absorb more oxygen and promote healing.
Professor Marina Leitman, MD, of the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, presented the findings at EACVI 2023, a conference held by the European Society of Cardiology.
The study involved 60 long Covid patients with symptoms persisting for at least three months. The researchers randomly assigned the subjects to HBOT or a sham procedure in a 1:1 ratio. Each person had five sessions weekly over eight weeks. The HBOT group received 100% oxygen at a pressure of 2 atmospheres for 90 minutes, with 5-minute breaks every 20 minutes. The sham group had 21% oxygen (the same level as in normal breathing) at 1 atmosphere for 90 minutes with no break.
The study assessed global longitudinal strain (GLS), a measure of cardiac function. A healthy heart will show a GLS value of around -20%, meaning that the heart is contracting and relaxing properly in the longitudinal direction. A lower GLS value indicates that the heart is not functioning as effectively as it should.
At the study’s baseline, 29 of the 60 participants had impaired cardiac function with an average GLS value of -17.8%. After the treatments, the average GLS among the intervention group increased to -20.2% versus -19.1% in the sham group. The research team concluded that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be beneficial in long Covid patients.
Our member centres are seeing an increasing number of people seeking oxygen therapy to help with long Covid symptoms, and many report beneficial results.