High On Helium? Horses Undergoing Surgery Improved When Offered Oxygen/Helium Mix

Horses that have to undergo surgery that requires anesthesia can have a hard time; to be completely anesthetized, they must be placed on the back or their side, which places pressure on internal organs, sometimes leading to partially collapsed lungs. Horses undergoing surgery have better outcomes when offered a mix of helium and oxygen in the ventilator, researchers have found.

Though placed on ventilators while they are under anesthesia, a horse’s blood oxygen levels can plummet during long procedures. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that a combination of helium and oxygen, called heliox, fared better than horses receiving pure oxygen.
Helium is less dense than oxygen, allowing it to flow through smaller vessels and reach the alveoli more easily. Led by Klaus Hopster, an assistant professor of large animal anesthesiology at the New Bolton Center, the research also noted that using higher-pressure ventilation improved overall oxygenation.

Hopster collaborated with the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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