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"Helium Facilitates Breathing"- Russian Scientist on the Treatment of Pulmonary Failure with COVID-19
April 28, 2020 16:02


On April 20, 2020, at a meeting with the President of Russia, pulmonologist Alexander Suvorov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about Russian doctors’ new initiative in treating people suffering from coronavirus infection.
The head of the Department of Human Physiology under Extreme Conditions of the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP), RAS, Alexander Suvorov, M.D. suggests using helium to relieve the hypoxia syndrome. Due to its low density, helium will help people with lung obstruction caused by COVID-19 to oxygenate tissues better.
The scientist clarified that helium has a density seven times lower than that of air and it is this property that reduces respiratory resistance. It was found that if a person is having heavy physical exertion, which is associated with the need for very high degree of the lungs ventilation, then the oxygen-helium mixture improves gas transport: oxygen is better delivered to the tissues, while carbon dioxide is better egested out of the body. Thus, human capabilities increase by about 20 percent.

Helium for Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
About 80 years ago, research with helium was started in the medical sphere and its benefits were noted.
"If using oxygen-helium mixtures, the breathing resistance gets significantly reduced. Helium makes breathing easier for patients with narrowed bronchial lumen as a result of spasm or swelling. It is delivered to the alveoli faster and penetrates into them, resulting in increased oxygen level in the blood,"- Alexander Suvorov explained.
Thus, the use of helium does not directly cure lung obstruction, but helps to alleviate severe symptoms - respiratory failure, accompanied by a decrease in oxygen content and an increase in carbon dioxide in the blood.
Currently, in most cases, it is oxygen that is used to support the respiration of patients. But, according to the scientist, oxygen-helium mixtures are better than pure oxygen, because the latter, when used long, has a toxic effect.
“Therefore, I hold the view that pure oxygen should never be used for anyone with normal or high blood pressure. It is necessary to use either mixtures enriched with oxygen (40% oxygen is enough), or oxygen-helium mixtures, which is even better. This significantly improves the oxygen supply and will significantly reduce the breathing resistance and the load on the respiratory system”- Alexander Suvorov, Doctor of Medical Sciences, points out.
“As a result of the research, we have come to the conclusion that oxygen-helium mixture is best for patients with respiratory failure, whereas pure oxygen ranks second, and air comes third,”- the representative of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, RAS said.

Treatment of COVID-19 Patients and Technical Limitations

"From the point of view of pathophysiology in the treatment of respiratory failure, which develops in patients with COVID-19, oxygen-helium mixtures have advantages no doubt. They will help alleviate the course of the disease," – Alexander Suvorov assured. However, he explained that using the oxygen-helium mixture for all patients with coronavirus infection would not work technically. Patients with COVID-19 fall into two groups: those for whom assisted lungs ventilation is sufficient (that is, inhalers with oxygen or oxygen-helium mixtures help), and people in an unconscious state who need a lung ventilator. If for the first group there are ready-made devices, then for the second one there are only experimental samples that need clinical testing.

"It is possible that the current situation will become an impetus for the wider use of oxygen-helium mixtures in medicine," - the scientist said. "Those studies that are currently being conducted at the Institute of Biomedical Problems, RAS, with oxygen-helium mixtures including other inert gases for better overcoming of hypoxic conditions might gain traction as well".




Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Medicine Coronavirus    

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