During life-threatening situations where a patient’s respiratory status is compromised (acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), severe pneumonia, pneumothorax, etc.), there’s an acute need to oxygenate the blood to prevent near certain death. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have developed a way to inject oxygen into the bloodstream, a method that may soon be an option for critical care clinicians, ER staff, and maybe even first responders.
The technique relies on encapsulating pure oxygen gas within self-assembling lipid structures. The resulting foam suspension contains between 50 and 90 ml of oxygen per deciliter, and its effectiveness was confirmed by prolonging life in hypoxemic rabbits and animals with a blocked trachea. Researchers at Children’s Hospital note that the particles are different from perfluorocarbon-based blood substitutes, which can carry oxygen but are not useful when the lungs are unable to oxygenate them. Instead, the microparticles are designed for situations in which respiratory function is completely incapacitated.
From the study abstract in Science Translational Medicine:
When the microparticles were infused by intravenous injection into hypoxemic rabbits, arterial saturations increased within seconds to near-normal levels; this was followed by a decrease in oxygen tensions after stopping the infusions. The particles were also infused into rabbits undergoing 15 min of complete tracheal occlusion. Oxygen microparticles significantly decreased the degree of hypoxemia in these rabbits, and the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury was reduced compared to controls. The ability to administer oxygen and other gases directly to the bloodstream may represent a technique for short-term rescue of profoundly hypoxemic patients, to selectively augment oxygen delivery to at-risk organs, or for novel diagnostic techniques. Furthermore, the ability to titrate gas infusions rapidly may minimize oxygen-related toxicity.
Children’s Hospital Boston statement: Injecting life-saving oxygen into a vein…
Abstract in Science Translational Medicine: Oxygen Gas–Filled Microparticles Provide Intravenous Oxygen Delivery