Helium-oxygen gas-carrier mixture (heliox): a review of physics and potential applications in veterinary medicine


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Christopher G. Byers, Internal Medicine - Critical Care Department, VCA Veterinary Referral Associates, 15021 Dufief Mill Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, USA.
Email: christopher.byers@vcamail.com


Background – To review the physics of helium with regard to airway physiology, as well as known human and potential veterinary applications of administration of inhaled helium-oxygen gas-carrier mixture (heliox).

Data Sources – Human and veterinary studies.

Human Data Synthesis – Helium-oxygen mixtures have been used in human medicine for over 70 years as an adjunct therapy in various upper and lower respiratory disorders. Helium's low density promotes laminar flow through partially obstructed airways, resulting in a decreased work of breathing.

Veterinary Data Synthesis – Little to no evidence-based medicine exists to support or oppose the use of heliox in veterinary species. However, domestic animal species and humans share several common pathophysiologic aspects of various obstructive airway disorders. Thus, veterinary patients may also ultimately and significantly benefit from this novel therapy.

Conclusion – Prospective studies are needed in veterinary medicine to determine the utility of heliox in clinical scenarios.