November 30, 2004
Helium Better for Short-Breath Sufferers
Italian researchers say a mix of helium and oxygen may help people with serious breathing difficulties use their lungs more effectively.
A team from Rome's Universita La Sapienza, in a study summarized in this month's issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, said that while breathing a low-density mixture of 79 percent helium and 21 percent oxygen, the length of time that 12 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder could do real exercise was 9 minutes, versus only 4.2 minutes for 12 patients breathing regular air, which has 79 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen.
The World Health Organization estimates that COPD, as a single cause of death around the world, shares fourth place with HIV/AIDS, following coronary heart disease, cerebro-vascular disease and acute respiratory infection. WHO estimates that 2.7 million people died of COPD worldwide in 2000; cigarette smoking is blamed for about 85 percent of cases.