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Development of a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy service to treat people with long COVID in a community pharmacy setting (Final Report)

Gill, Paul and Gale, Nichola ORCID: 2023. Development of a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy service to treat people with long COVID in a community pharmacy setting (Final Report). [Project Report]. Cardiff: Cardiff University.

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Background and rationale Long COVID is an umbrella term used to describe a range of symptoms, particularly chronic fatigue, ‘brain fog’ and dyspnoea, which persist for weeks, months or even years after an initial, acute COVID-19 infection. It is estimated that up to 20% of people diagnosed with acute COVID-19 will go on to develop long COVID. The pathology is unclear and, as yet there are no effective treatment options. Emerging evidence indicates that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) may help to improve many key long COVID symptoms, in the short term. This study aims to undertake a pilot evaluation of HBOT for people affected by long COVID; to explore changes in chronic fatigue, shortness of breath and quality of life with 4 weeks of HBOT at 14.4 atmosphere absolute. Methods A purposive sample from the long COVID Facebook group were recruited. Participants received 15-20 HBOT sessions using a single person chamber over a consecutive four-week period. Socio-demographic information, long COVID symptoms and date of infection was recorded using a bespoke questionnaire. Validated outcome measures including: Chalder Fatigue Scale, Dyspnoea-12 Questionnaire (high scores = worse symptoms) and EQ-5D-L (high scores = better health) were completed at baseline, at weekly intervals over the 4 weeks of HBOT therapy and at 4 weeks after completing therapy. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics using SPSS 27. Five participants also took part in 2 separate, online focus groups to explore experiences of HBOT provision and subjective impact of therapy on long COVID symptoms. The focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Results Of the 10 participants recruited, 8 (7 females), age ranges from 26-35 to 56-65 years completed 4 weeks of HBOT. In the 6 people who had complete data, median (IQR) baseline v 4 week data was as follows: Fatigue 30 [28-32] v 22 [4-25], Dyspnoea 17 [6-22] v 4 [0-11], EQ-5D-L index 0.29 [0.07-0.49] v 0.60 [0.20-0.80] and EQ-5D-L VAS 40 [33-51] v 55 [49-73]. Participants reported a range of enduring, significance and fluctuating long COVID symptoms in the focus groups, including chronic fatigue, brain fog, joint pain and shortness of breath. Experiences of HBOT provision were positive but attending regular therapy sessions was often problematic, due to the ongoing challenges associated with long COVID. All reported a noticeable improvement in most of their bothersome symptoms and most participants also experienced a continued, gradual improvement in key symptoms in the 4 weeks since completing therapy. Conclusion HBOT has potential to improve symptoms in people with long COVID. Further controlled studies are urgently needed. Impact The use of HBOT to manage of long COVID symptoms may have an important impact on patients’ symptoms and quality of life.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Publisher: Cardiff University
Funders: Accelerate Funding, Cardiff University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 November 2023
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2023 10:45

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