What is the role of Helium in Medicines?

Helium is the lightest noble gas. It consists of various physical and chemical properties due to which it is used in respiratory ailments therapies. Due to its inert gas property it helps in neuroprotection, in surgery, in MRI technique etc. This article deals with the role of helium in medicines and how it is used in various techniques for the treatment of patients.
Created On: Nov 6, 2017 18:59 IST

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless. It’s boiling and melting point is -452.10F and -4580F respectively. It does not support combustion. It is the lightest noble gas. Do you know that Helium is 86% less dense than room air and 8 times less dense than oxygen? This property of helium makes it unique. It has two isotopes Helium-3 with one neutron and Helium-4 with two neutrons. Helium gas is also used to fill balloons and so commonly known as lifting gas in balloons and in airships. Let us find out what is the role of helium in medicines or how it is used in medicines.

Medicinal use of Helium
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What is the role of Helium in medicines?

1. Helium is used in Surgery

Helium is used in surgery
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It is used in Laparoscopic renal surgery. It helps patients who suffer difficulty in clearing carbon dioxide gas from their bloodstream. Patients suffering from congestive heart failure, chronic hypoxia, malignant hyperthermia are treated by this.  According to some research helium is also explored as an alternative of abdominal insufflant to carbon dioxide. Even helium pneumoperitoneum also improve the recovery of postoperative gastrointestinal motility.
Now a day’s helium plasma technology is also used in abdominal and laparoscopic surgery. In this surgery helium plasma is use in the process of thermal coagulation of tissues and clear the bleeding from the surgical field.
2. Helium is used in the therapy of respiratory ailments

Helium is used in respiratory ailments
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Do you know that flow of gas depends on the density and viscosity of the element within a gas mixture? The low density of helium reduces airway resistance and promotes airflow through the lungs. Work of breathing (WOB) is decreases by the Heliox in the patients with the increase in the airway resistance. Hence, Heliox is effective in variety of respiratory conditions including upper airway obstruction, asthma exacerbation, bronchiolitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and pulmonary function testing.

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3. Helium is used in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Device

Helium is used in MRI technique
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Liquid Helium is used for magnetic resonance imaging devices. It is used as a cooling component for the superconducting magnets in MRI and is very critical also. Superconducting magnet consists of many coils or winding wires through which a current of electricity passed and generates a magnetic field up to 2.0 tesla. To maintain such a magnetic field a lot of energy is needed and it is achieved by reducing the resistance in the wires almost to zero. And this is done by cooling it down or freezing it with the help of helium. In MRI, helium plays a crucial role, if it is not there than large amount of energy is used to keep MRI working and then it will become more expensive.
4. Helium is also helpful in neurology

Helium is helpful in Neurology
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The inert gases are lighter like neon and helium which are not anesthetics at least up to the highest pressures which can be tolerated before the effects of high pressure neurological syndrome become pronounced. At this high pressure nervous syndrome includes hyper excitability, tremors and convulsions which would act to oppose any sedative or anesthetic effect. Some studies have found that the effects of Heliox treatment or pre-conditioning in the nervous system. Therefore we can say that Heliox improve the neurological deficits.
5. Helium helps in Cardiovascular system

Helium is helpful in cardiovascular system
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Helium has been demonstrated to protect myocardial tissue from ischemia by various different mechanisms. Even it is found that animals treated with a helium gas mixture had significantly reduced infarct size compared with control groups. Helium also maintains the intracellular acidosis during early reperfusion, which inhibits mitochondrial transition pore formation. Also, some researchers have found that reactive oxygen species including nitric oxide, mitochondrial-adenosine triphosphate regulated potassium channels which were responsible for the cardio-protective effects induced by helium preconditioning.
Therefore, we have seen that helium plays a crucial role in medicines in various treatments and techniques.

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