Oxygen without taking a breath: potentially lifesaving injection for thousands

Posted on: April 10th, 2014 by Ortho Illinois

What would you do with 15 minutes of not needing to take a breath?  Plug your nose, slap some tape over your mouth, and hang out at the bottom of a pool? Just stand there and be amazed? Or maybe you’d compete in a race (we hope not. That would be unethical.)?

Sound like fun? Absolutely! Helpful? You bet.

Findings from a recent study could potentially allow people quickly to get oxygen into their systems in emergencies, and as Dr. Marc Zussman, an orthopedic trauma surgeon for Rockford Orthopedic, pointed out “This could have applications for someone who has significant lung or airway obstruction.”

The ability to give someone more oxygen when they can’t get it through an airway could save lives, thousands of lives, and it could be as simple as getting an injection.

So how does it work?

Basically, “The microparticles consist of a single layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, and are delivered in a liquid solution.” According to Sciencedaily.

The study, performed on rabbits, dramatically decreased the chance of cardiac arrest and organ injury when compared to the control group.

Within 4 seconds of the injection, 70% of the volume of oxygen was transferred from the lipids to the bloodstream, and the microparticles significantly decreased oxygen shortage in a 15 minute test.

“This is something [researchers] have been trying to find for quite awhile, and unfortunately, there’s currently not a lot we can do short of having a patient on a cardiac bypass.” Zussman said.

Since the job of the lungs is to bring in oxygen so your blood can be oxygenated and then get that oxygen to various organs of the body, it needs to be helped or replaced if they stop functioning.

Should it become available, would this increase save rates?

“I think it could help save severely injured trauma patients,” said Zussman, “I don’t see that this is an option for people experiencing COPD, but it could work like an artificial heart to keep oxygen in the body, which could get patients over the hump in an emergency situation.”

But while we all hope that this would only be used to save patients or let us have 15 minute tea parties at the bottom of a pool–probably an expensive tea party, Dr. Zussman also pointed out that the discovery has a performance enhancement aspect to it as well.  “It could basically become a new form of blood-doping.”

Let’s just hope that this study is reinforced by other studies and successful human tests and that someday this new treatment could give paramedics and physicians a little bit more time to save lives.

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