Into the Tank: Pressurized oxygen is best at countering carbon monoxide exposure | Science News

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Into the Tank: Pressurized oxygen is best at countering carbon monoxide exposure

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12:49pm, October 2, 2002

Carbon monoxide poisoning sends roughly 40,000 people to hospitals every year in the United States. Although doctors routinely treat such patients with oxygen, the medical community still hasn't reached a consensus on the optimum dose or best delivery method.

Scientists report in the Oct. 3 New England Journal of Medicine that breathing pressurized, or hyperbaric, oxygen limits long-term brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning better than simply inhaling oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure from a mask, the most common therapy.

To deliver hyperbaric oxygen, physicians place a patient in a sealed chamber containing 100 percent oxygen pressurized to 2 to 3 atmospheres, that is, double to triple the air pressure at sea level. Treatment usually lasts a few hours. The pressure in the tank feels akin to that experienced at depths of 33 to 66 feet underwater, and hyperbaric treatment carries a slight risk of ear discomfort and convulsion. Past studies failed to s

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