Government Approval Needed For Potentially Life-Saving Chamber Therapy
The Midlands Diving Chamber is ready to support clinical trials of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, a potential game-changer in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The trials could serve as a precursor for a plan to use pressurised grounded aircraft as large-scale hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Currently, most COVID-19 patients who are ill enough to require ventilation do not survive. The cause of death is multiple organ failure due to chronic hypoxia, as their lungs are unable to absorb enough oxygen. Ventilation – which involves tubes being pushed into the main passageways (bronchi) of a patient's lungs – also exposes the patients to additional risks from long-term sedation, infection and damage to the lungs.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) – breathing oxygen under pressure in a hyperbaric chamber – could not only help patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19 absorb sufficient oxygen, but also reduce the inflammation of the lungs, allowing them to breathe more effectively. This could let them recover without needing ventilation, and so radically improve their chances of survival.
A case study in China showed that five COVID-19 patients responded well to HBOT treatment, and similarly positive results have been observed in 15 cases in New York and France, according to Dr Daniel Reynolds, founder of Cambridge-based life-support systems and closed circuit rebreather (CCR) manufacturer Lungfish Dive System, who is working with healthcare organisations and aerospace companies to explore the possibility of using commercial airliners as makeshift HBOT chambers.
The number of observed cases is, however, too low for the treatment to be approved for mass rollout. Clinical trials are required to determine if the use of HBOT for seriously ill COVID-19 sufferers is worth progressing, and to finalise details of the treatment. Until now, progress in the UK has been slow due to the sheer scale of the emergency. A Just Giving crowdfunding campaign has been started to raise the necessary funds to test up to 110 patients in Canada.
In a new development, however, the UK's Midlands Diving Chamber is offering the use of the former London Diving Chamber, which was closed last year due to NHS funding cuts. According to Simon Wilson, director of Midlands Diving Chamber, the chamber is sitting in a shipping container and a complement of staff is ready and waiting to help with clinical trials.
'We're ready to go,' said Mr Wilson. 'We could park it outside a hospital, better still inside one of the Nightingale hospitals, and begin trials immediately. We just need approval from the NHS to put it into action.'
In light of this, DIVE is calling on the public to help spread the word and try to raise government support for the trials. A petition is available for signature on the UK Government's website, or you could email your MP, to help spread the word about what could be a life-saving treatment for thousands of people. Successful trials of HBOT COVID-19 treatment by Midlands Diving Chamber would also assist with a global initiative to repurpose grounded aircraft as HBOT chambers for the large-scale treatment of COVID-19 patients.
'It's a race against time,' said Dr Reynolds. 'It’s important to be ready to act immediately should the trials be successful. At the current casualty rates, if the treatment proves effective, one day's difference in response speed could mean a difference of thousands of lives saved.'
Two petitions have been started to generate public support for the clinical trials. The Change.org petition is live and available, the UK government petition is awaiting approval but will be ready in a few days. Dr Reynolds and the team behind the project would be grateful for all signatures and donations towards turning the concept into a reality.
Note: The UK Government petition below is new and may still be waiting
for approval, in which case please try again in a few days' time.