ROYAL OAK — Over the past two decades, cardiologists have explored many different treatments to help prevent permanent heart damage after a heart attack.

One treatment that appears to be very promising is supersaturated oxygen — a therapy based on the known benefits of hyperbaric oxygen treatment in patients with burns and wounds.

Developed in Detroit, SSO2 Therapy is the equivalent of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for the heart.

Beaumont has been one of the few centers in the U.S. pioneering SSO2 Therapy and is now leading a new clinical research study involving four sites to test the effectiveness of this novel treatment.

Michael King, 58, a banker who lives in Birmingham, was the second patient to participate in the new research study.

King was at home on a Saturday morning preparing for the delivery of new furniture when he started having throbbing pain in his chest and arm.

“Like any guy, I thought I could man up and get through it,” he said.

But his wife thought better. She called an ambulance. Within minutes, he was transported to Beaumont, Royal Oak’s Emergency Center. In no more than an hour, he was in the catheterization lab being treated for a blockage in the left anterior descending artery of his heart — the artery often called the “widowmaker.” He was treated with angioplasty and three coronary artery stents.

When presented with the option of participating in the SSO2 Therapy research trial, he recalls thinking, “If this is on the leading edge, I am in for it.”

“Everyone gave me a lot of really great information about the treatment and the process,” he says. “I don’t remember much. It seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.”

A heart attack is caused by a sudden blockage in one of the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen. This interruption in blood flow causes the muscle cells to die which may weaken the pumping ability of the heart, resulting in congestive heart failure or death.

Emergency angioplasty and stenting is the most effective way to relieve a heart blockage and stop a heart attack. In angioplasty, a hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into arteries in the groin or arm and threaded into the heart where a balloon is inflated to open the heart blockage. A wire mesh device called a stent is then placed at the site of the blockage as a “scaffold” to prop the artery open.

The faster the blocked artery is opened the better, since muscle damage occurs when the heart is starved of blood flow. The amount of muscle damage is the most important factor influencing a patient’s recovery and future well being.

In the Beaumont research study, SSO2 Therapy is delivered after the physician has treated the artery with a stent. Using a small circuit, the patient’s blood is supersaturated with oxygen and then returned directly into the main heart artery through a small catheter for 60 minutes.

“The high level of oxygen appears to improve healing, and in previous studies has been shown to reduce the size of the heart attack by 25 percent, says Simon Dixon, M.D., principal investigator and chair of Beaumont Health System’s department of Cardiovascular Medicine.

SSO2 therapy is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration at this time and may not be suitable for all heart attack patients.

“However, for those with large heart attacks, the treatment looks promising,” says Dr. Dixon.

For more information about the study, call (248) 898-0315.


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