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Oxygen infusions can save lives when patients are unable to breathe

By Justine Espersen

A team of doctors, chemical engineers and particle scientists of Boston Children’s Hospital have had significant success after six years of investigation led by Dr. John Kheir. The team has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be put into the bloodstream to bring up oxygen levels of the blood.

Kheir began this research of using injectable oxygen on patients with disabled lungs or blocked airways after a young girl he was treating passed away. She had a brain injury, resulting from severe pneumonia, that was causing her lungs to stop working properly, further causing her blood oxygen levels to drop too low.

Announced in the journal of Science Translational Medicine June 27, Kheir of the Department of Cardiology reported after the infusion in rabbits, “arterial saturations increased within seconds to near-normal levels.” Additionally, when tested on rabbits with blocked tracheas, the infusion was able to keep them alive for up to 15 minutes without taking a single breath.

This infusion is intended primarily in emergency response scenarios, such as holding non-breathing patients over for 15-30 minutes as the carrier liquid would overload the bloodstream if used longer.
“This is a short-term oxygen – a way to safely inject oxygen gas to support patients during a critical few minutes,” Kheir said. “Eventually, this could be stored in syringes on every code cart in a hospital, ambulance or transport helicopter to help stabilize patients who are having difficulty breathing.”

However, these blood substitutes are capable of carrying oxygen, and they need to be first oxygenated by functioning lungs, according to Gizmag.