A series of before-and-after brain scans showing improvement in long COVID patients after hyperbaric oxygen therapy

These before-and-after brain scans show improved blood flow in long COVID patients after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. [Image courtesy of Aviv Clinics]

A clinical trial involving 73 patients with long COVID has shown positive results from hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), Aviv Clinics said today.

The prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Israel’s Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center and Tel Aviv University.

“Millions of those who have recovered from COVID-19 are experiencing debilitating symptoms which persist for weeks, months or even years following their original infection,” Dr. Amir Hadanny, chief researcher and head of global clinical operations at Aviv Clinics, said in a news release. “Until today, no effective therapy has been suggested. Our research is the first randomized controlled trial to demonstrate a real solution for the long haulers.”

Nearly 20% of Americans who have had COVID-19 reported symptoms lasting more than three months, according to the CDC. The lengthy list of chronic symptoms from long COVID includes fatigue, cough, fever, pain, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, heart palpitations, digestive problems, neurological issues such as brain fog (difficulty thinking and/or concentrating), headaches, trouble sleeping, depression and anxiety.

Long COVID patients in the study who received HBOT sessions had significant improvement in global cognitive function, energy, sleep, psychiatric symptoms and pain interference, Aviv Clinics said. Participants in the control group did not show significant improvement.

“The research suggests that the development of post-COVID-19 conditions related to the central nervous system includes direct neurological injury mostly in the frontal lobes — the area of the brain that plays a major role in cognitive and mental functions,” research group leader Dr. Shai Efrati — director of the Sagol Center and chair of Aviv Scientific’s Medical Advisory Board — said in the news release. “Today, we understand that in some patients, the virus can penetrate the brain through the cribriform plate, the part of the skull located just above the nose, and trigger chronic brain injury presented as cognitive decline such as brain fog, loss of concentration and mental fatigue. The study revealed that HBOT can induce structural and functional repair of the damaged regions of the brain and improve the cognitive, behavioral and emotional function of the unfortunate patients suffering from post-COVID-19 conditions.”

Of the 73 study participants, about half received 40 HBOT sessions — five per week for two months — breathing 100% oxygen in a multiplace HBOT chamber at 2 atmospheres absolute for 90 minutes with oxygen fluctuations. The other half of the participants in the control group received a placebo treatment of normal air pumped into their breathing masks.

The study participants underwent high-resolution advanced brain MRI scans, computerized cognitive testing and comprehensive clinical symptoms evaluations.

A smaller study in the U.K. last year showed similar results for treating fatigue and cognitive decline in 10 long COVID patients, though it lacked a control group.

HBOT studies have previously shown the ability to treat the effects of stroke, traumatic brain injury, age-related cognitive decline and even PTSD, Aviv Clinics said.

The Sagol Center at Shamir Medical Center — the world’s largest hyperbaric medicine and research facility — is partnering with Aviv Clinics on a global network of clinics offering a two- to three-month regimen designed to improve cognitive and physical decline.

Headquartered in The Villages, Florida, Aviv Clinics said the protocols and evaluation procedures used in the long COVID study are available at Aviv Clinics in Florida and Dubai and at Shamir Medical Center in Israel.

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