Hyperbaric oxygen remedy reveals promise, issues

Hyperbaric oxygen remedy reveals promise, issues

Two sufferers receiving hyperbaric oxygen remedy at Aviv Clinics in The Villages, Florida.

Supply: Aviv Clinics

For the roughly 23 million Americans affected by lengthy Covid signs, an assortment of choices declare to deliver some reduction — from stem-cell treatments and naturopathic medicine to an obscure course of known as “blood-washing” solely obtainable in Cyprus.

One specifically seems promising for some: hyperbaric oxygen remedy. It entails respiratory 100% pure oxygen — as much as 3 times increased than air’s regular oxygen ranges — in a pressurized chamber to allow the physique to restore cognitive and bodily harm.

Some lengthy Covid sufferers swear by the therapy, with one describing it to CNBC Make It as a “complete sport changer.”

“It felt like I used to be nearly human once more,” says Danielle Gillan, a Lake Nona, Florida, resident who accomplished three months of the remedy final 12 months after battling debilitating signs like reminiscence loss, confusion and blurred imaginative and prescient.

However hyperbaric oxygen remedy’s success in treating lengthy Covid seems to be largely anecdotal — with restricted knowledge on why it really works, how efficient it’s, how lengthy its therapeutic results final, whether or not it alleviates some signs higher than others or if it carries unexpected penalties.

That is an enormous stumbling block for a lot of medical consultants, who warning in opposition to viewing it as a common treatment for lengthy Covid. It is an costly guess to make, too: The remedy, when used to deal with lengthy Covid, is just obtainable at personal amenities, a few of which cost greater than $50,000 for the expertise.

“We’re utilizing a therapy that is advanced and never absolutely understood to deal with a medical situation that is additionally new and complicated,” says Dr. Venita Chandraa vascular surgical procedure scientific professor at Stanford College. “The extent of problem that Covid introduced onto society has left folks reaching for something, however much more knowledge is required earlier than this turns into a well-established therapy for lengthy Covid.”

Hyperbaric oxygen remedy is just new in relation to lengthy Covid: The U.S. Meals and Drug Administration has beforehand cleared it for issues like decompression illness, carbon monoxide poisoning and radiation accidents.

In pressurized medical-grade chambers, sufferers alternate between respiratory pure oxygen by way of a masks and common air. Once you go from the previous to the latter, your mind interprets the drop in stress as a scarcity of oxygen, says Dr. Mohammed Elamir, a doctor at The Villages, Florida-based Aviv Clinics.

That triggers stem cell manufacturing and blood vessel development within the mind, which helps the physique restore itself in quite a lot of methods, Elamir says.

A affected person and nurse in a hyperbaric oxygen remedy chamber.

Supply: Aviv Clinics

The remedy is not FDA-approved for lengthy Covid, however that does not cease personal amenities from providing it as a therapies. It solely means insurance coverage corporations can not help cowl the price.

At Aviv, lengthy Covid sufferers join 40 to 60 two-hour classes — as soon as a day, 5 days per week, for eight to 12 weeks. The clinic prices $36,000 to $51,000 for these 40 to 60 classes, together with customized care outdoors of chamber classes, Elamir says: conferences with physiologists and neurologists, dietary plans, mind imaging and medical assessments.

Some sufferers are medically ineligible, Elamir says — like these with latest ear surgical procedures, who would possibly wrestle with these air stress drops. Many of the ones who do get handled have reported improved lengthy Covid signs, the clinic provides.

Lynette Milakovich, a retiree in The Villages, skilled a variety of lengthy Covid signs earlier than beginning hyperbaric oxygen remedy. She had insomnia, felt “electrical shocks” throughout her physique and skilled mind fog that made it troublesome to course of and bear in mind issues, amongst different signs.

After finishing three months’ value of classes at Aviv in December 2022, Milakovich skilled enhancements in her cognitive operate, respiratory and sensitivity to mild and sound, she says.

There’s restricted knowledge on how lengthy these advantages would possibly final, however Milakovich says she hopes to maintain therapeutic post-therapy within the coming months.

Lynette Milakovich

Supply: Lynette Milakovich

Some lengthy Covid sufferers might profit extra from the therapy than others. That is as a result of quite a lot of underlying physiological situations — like power lung points, for instance — can “drive completely different manifestations of lengthy Covid,” says Dr. Lucy Hortonan infectious illness doctor who based the lengthy Covid clinic at UC San Diego Well being.

The one approach to higher perceive the therapy’s potential advantages is thru “larger and broader research,” Horton says.

Elamir factors to a 2022 study from Tel Aviv College, which examined 72 lengthy Covid sufferers with cognitive signs like mind fog that lasted for at the very least three months. Half underwent hyperbaric oxygen remedy for 2 months, whereas the opposite served as a management group.

Sufferers within the first group reported lowered mind fog, improved reminiscence and a spotlight, extra vitality and fewer ache. These within the management group did not report any important enhancements.

The examine acknowledged its personal limitations: The pattern dimension was “comparatively small,” and researchers solely noticed the therapy’s results for one to 3 weeks after every affected person’s remaining session. Any longer-term advantages or drawbacks stay to be seen.

Clinics like Aviv are believers. The examine will “certainly” lead different researchers to verify these optimistic findings, an Aviv spokesperson says.

Even when hyperbaric oxygen remedy proves efficient, its price is a big barrier to entry — particularly when lengthy Covid signs make it troublesome to work 40 hours per week.

Nora Lieberman, a gallery coordinator in Washington D.C., says she’s had bother respiratory, fatigue and cognitive impairments that make it troublesome to finish regular duties. She paid practically $3,000 for ten classes at a Restore Hyper Wellness location in Richmond, Virginia, in June 2021.

The therapy was “reenergizing,” however she ultimately could not afford the beneficial variety of classes, she says. “For a lot of (Covid) lengthy haulers, together with myself, monetary freedom is gone as a result of we will not work full-time.”

Her signs returned after she halted the therapy, she says. It is unclear whether or not that might’ve occurred if she’d undergone her full allotment of classes.

For a lot of (Covid) lengthy haulers, together with myself, monetary freedom is gone as a result of we will not work full-time.

Nora Lieberman

Some clinics defray prices for sufferers who cannot shoulder the hefty expense. Aviv, for instance, gives hyperbaric oxygen remedy at lowered price to those that would not usually have entry to our cutting-edge program,” according to its website.

The applying requests tax and earnings paperwork demonstrating a financial inability to pay the clinic’s commonplace costs.

However for most individuals, it will solely get inexpensive when insurance coverage corporations can cowl a number of the price, which hinges on FDA approval for treating lengthy Covid. “That is one thing we’re pushing in direction of,” says an Aviv spokesperson.

It will not occur with out optimistic knowledge rising from larger-scale research, says Dr. Jonathan Whitesonan affiliate professor of rehabilitation medication at NYU Langone Well being.

A number of ongoing research exist, however there is no concrete timeline for after they’ll yield knowledge, Horton provides.

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