Health Beat

Health Beat: Supersaturated O2 therapy for heart attacks

Health Beat: Supersaturated O2...

LA JOLLA, Calif. - Tim France is reminiscing about a 500-mile hike he did with his son three years ago. He exercises, eats well, and doesn't smoke, but one day on the golf course changed everything.

"As I was walking from the fifth to the sixth hole, you have to walk up a hill, and that's when I felt a pain in my chest, right in the middle of my chest, and it's like, 'Well, this is not good," recalled France, 59.

France was rushed into the care of Dr. John Harrington, a cardiologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, who invited France to be part of the supersaturated oxygen therapy trial.

"We increase the oxygen content of the blood by five to seven times, and then that is infused back into the patient, directly into the major artery of the heart," Harrington explained.

In early phases of the trial, heart muscle damage went down by 26 percent.

"The sooner that you open the artery that has been interrupted blood flow, the less damage is done," Harrington said. "I use the analogy of a house fire. The sooner you call the fire department, the sooner the fire is out, the less structural damage is done."

France had MRIs at five and 30 days after the procedure.

"I feel as well now as I did before the heart attack, and I'm thinking that part of it has to do with that study," said France.

He's also psyched to help researchers improve outcomes for first-time heart attack patients like himself. 

Research into supersaturated oxygen therapy began in 2002. It's now in Phase III clinical trial, the last phase before results and data are presented to the FDA. Doctors have treated 86 of the 100 patients they need for the trial. They expect to end the trial in two to three months.

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