There are many diseases and injuries, including COVID-19, where the body has trouble getting the oxygen needed to survive into the lungs. Scientists May Have Found A Way To Inject Oxygen From A Vein into The Bloodstream.
In severe cases, patients are placed on a ventilator, but this equipment is often inadequate. It can cause complications of its own, such as infection and lung damage.
Scientists may have made a breakthrough that will have a significant impact on how ventilators are used.
In addition to typical mechanical ventilation, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a procedure in which blood is transferred out of the body, thereby adding and withdrawing oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Oxygen can now be delivered directly to the patient's blood, and the patient's blood can stay where it is, according to a new discovery. For a disease such as refractory hypoxemia that can be caused by being on a ventilator, the availability of this method can save lives.
“If successful, the presented technology could help prevent or reduce the occurrence of ventilator-induced lung injury from refractory hypoxemia,” the researchers write in their new publication.
The new method works by pushing an oxygen-rich liquid through a series of smaller and smaller nozzles. At the end of the procedure, the bubbles are smaller than red blood cells, which means they can be injected directly into the bloodstream without clogging the blood vessels.
Before the bubbles are injected into the bloodstream, they are coated with a lipid barrier that reduces toxicity and prevents the bubbles from clumping together. After the solution is injected, the membrane dissolves and oxygen is released.
Blood oxygen saturation levels could be increased from 15% to over 95% in just a few minutes in trials using human donated blood. The procedure has been proven to increase saturation from 20% to 50% in live rats.
"Importantly, these devices allow us to adjust the dose of oxygen delivered and the volume of fluid delivered, both crucial parameters in the management of critically ill patients," the researchers wrote.
The researchers were quick to point out at this point that this is only a "proof of concept" and has not yet been tested on humans. With the size of the bubbles and the coating used, they discovered a potentially viable formula.
Getting oxygen into the body in this way is a delicate balancing act, because if too much, too little is added, or if it is added incorrectly, difficulties can quickly arise. The researchers want to test their device on larger animals before moving on to human trials.
While it cannot completely replace ventilators or ECMO life support in its current form, it is hoped that the new device may better prepare the body to put on these machines or keep the lungs going until a ventilator is available.
“It is worth noting that our technology can be integrated into existing ventilators, allowing seamless integration into established clinical workflows,” the researchers wrote.