Oxygen therapy is actually a very old concept. It includes simply supplementing oxygen to people deficient in it. However, IV oxygen therapy is not as prevalent or simple as other oxygen therapies in practice. Injecting oxygen, a gas, directly into the blood defies several medical laws, posing the risk of thrombosis. So why is this therapy practiced nowadays, and how safe is it actually? This blog will illuminate on this.
Understanding Concept Of IV Oxygen Therapy (IOT)
To understand IOT, you need to first understand what oxygen therapy is! Simply saying, oxygen therapy is the supply of supplemental oxygen to support people who cannot get sufficient amounts of oxygen that their body needs. This therapy is prevalent among those with respiratory disorders like COVID-19, sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
There are many oxygen therapy techniques. Normally, oxygen is injected through a cannula, face mask, or tubes surgically placed in the trachea. The oxygen in this way is supplied to the lungs. On the other hand, IV oxygen therapy means intravenous administration of a tiny amount of oxygen at a low infusion rate over a prescribed timespan. This therapy is also called oxygenation.
How Does IOT Work?
Injecting gas right into the bloodstream comes with a lot of health risks, especially gas embolism. This condition is caused due to blockage of blood vessels by gas bubbles. Gas embolism is not only severe but also life-threatening, triggering conditions like stroke and heart attacks. The additional risk is when gas bubbles enter the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain, which is fatal as well. How, then, does IOT work?
While performing IV oxygen therapy, very little amount of oxygen is injected at a low rate. Just 2 percent of the oxygen supplied dissolves in the blood. Of the surplus amount, most oxygen molecules cling to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. The left behind undissolved injected oxygen is present in the blood as small bubbles.
After that, the body coats the oxygen bubbles with extracellular matrix-derived substances, commonly fibronectin and fibrinogen. This process is called opsonization. This process lets the immune system believe that the bubbles are foreign substances and prepare for their removal. For the body’s defense response to these severe allergens, eosinophils must be produced. The production of eosinophils is called eosinophilia.
Studies have found that eosinophilia is not present in other oxygen therapy techniques, explaining why IOT is the only oxygen therapy technique, using which eosinophils in the blood increase. All of the health benefits of intravenous oxygen therapy are associated with its power to stimulate eosinophilia.
Administering oxygen intravenously as is with other intravenous gas administration techniques, comes with some risks. Medical oxygen is prescribed for respiratory use only, with several health organizations disregarding IV oxygen therapy. This is mainly due to the high risk of gas embolism, which has the potential to be fatal. Nevertheless, medical practitioners can avoid this by administering tiny air bubbles over a prolonged time span. According to studies, the smaller the needle used during injecting oxygen, the smaller the bubbles produced in the bloodstream.