Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Helps Long Covid Patients, Study Says

Jay Croft

September 15, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest long COVID news and guidance in Medscape's Long COVID Resource Center.

Long COVID-19 patients who received pure oxygen treatments saw improvements to damaged brain tissues and their functional cognition compared to others in a study who received regular air, researchers in Israel say.

Some COVID-19 patients suffer from “brain fog,” and research links the disease to tissue damage and brain shrinkage. The hyperbaric oxygen experiment was designed to see whether it could be effective for COVID-related brain issues.

Shai Efrati, a researcher at the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine in Tel Aviv, started clinical trials in December 2020, according to Leaps.org.

COVID-19 patients with cognitive issues received 40 sessions of therapy in a special hyperbaric chamber over a period of 60 days. In each session, they spent 90 minutes breathing through a mask. One group received pure oxygen; the control group received normal air, which has less oxygen.

Results published by Scientific Reports revealed substantial improvements in damaged brain tissue and functional cognition for the participants who breathed the pure oxygen. Most also said they felt back to “normal.”

Up to 12 patients and medical staff can fit inside the hyperbaric chamber. Leaps says it resembles a pressurized airplane cabin, “only with much more space than even in first class.”

Efrati said the environment is a “medical class center.”

Alexander Charney, MD, a research psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Leaps that the study could be difficult to replicate in large scale. But he said it was interesting enough to warrant further study.

John J. Miller, MD, editor in chief of Psychiatric Times, said the research “has great potential to help patients with long COVID whose symptoms are related to brain tissue changes.”

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