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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

I'd be interested in know if anyone with a brain injury has tried Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and how it's impacted them? I don't think this is given as a standard treatment on the NHS, but if research results is anything to go by, i'd be willing to go private or even buy a unit for my home.

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I have a friend in the USA who tried this. I could ask her for info/her experiences if it would help?

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Yes, that would be useful, if you're able to please share her experiences here.

Despite having been around much longer than most drug-based treatments, it's only just recently that it's garnered attention for it's potential use in treating a wide range of brain disorders. The NHS won't currently fund hyperbaric treatment for most brain-related disorders, as detailed here, crd.york.ac.uk/crdweb/ShowR... basically even though there's supportive evidence that it CAN be beneficial, there's not enough of evidence and of good-enough quality for it's widespread use. The NHS is just like any other organisation, they can only sustain themselves through cost-cutting measures, a pharmaceutical drug is a cheap commodity especially after it's patent expires and generics can be rolled out, on the other hand, how much does it cost to install hyperbaric oxygen chamber units all around the country so that the thousands of people with brain disorders (not to mention pratically all other conditions) can get the only effective treatment that doesn't contain any side-effects and can be withdrawn at any point? On the other hand, take a drug like an anti-depressant, some people benefit greatly, some people only minorly, others not at all and others get worse. Yet despite that some people get worse it's ok for a doctor to prescribe pharmaceuticals, so long as for most there's no ill-effects. Show me where oxygen therapy has had a negative effect on someone? You'll be hard-pressed to find one such case.

Here's what pure oxygen has done for someone: medicaltourismmag.com/artic...

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my son martin had 40 immersions 2 years after his tbi after i had been advised about its uses and researched it on the internet it had dramatic results but the nhs wouldnt let him have it and the chamber in newcastle had closed so we had to go to teeside and eventually to bangkok i am convinced it brought most of his memory back since then i have been trying to get a chamber in tyneside and our mp is working on it at present there is a book on it available at amazon just put it in the search engine someone called pavel

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Hi, i'm curious as to the details of your son's HBOT treatment. You say he had a total of 40 sessions, do you have any more details such as the atmospheric pressure, duration of sessions and how often were the sessions, were they regularly spaced apart e.g. every day, or bunched apart, etc ?

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That's really remarkable that after 2 years your son regained his memory and i'm sure many other things, I've read of people benefiting even after 20 years since their injury. The idea that after 1 year you've healed as much as you're going to has been comprehensively proved incorrect. It's been 12 years since my injury and I've witnessed incredible improvements, and sure there's been regressions but the potential for improvement is always there. I don't suppose that I'll ever stop improving and learning.

As a group, whether personally or on behalf of others, I'd say we don't make our voices heard enough. Of course we're small in number in comprison to the vast numbers who are affected by cancer, heart disesase, diabetes, obesity, etc. And in addition, our condition impedes our ability to make our voices heard, so to be honest we're largely neglected and it comes as no suprise. Everyone should do their bit to help change this situation, what you're doing is commendable. I really wish I was given this treatment option when I was injured even if there wasn't any benefit, instead I was given nothing. Shameful.

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Are Headway currently supporting/advocating for any research initiatives related to this area? This does seem like a promising area , a number of studies (mainly by the US department of defence on returning soldiers) have demonstrated it's potential. What research is being conducted in the UK?

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Hi AnthonyM,

Thank you for your question regarding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).

At Headway we unfortunately do not have the resources to conduct research into areas such as this, so we do try to go by the research that is available. We are not currently aware of any large scale conclusive studies into the use of this therapy in people with acquired brain injury, but this does look like an area where further research is needed.

You might be interested in some research available online, although you may well have already found it:

A Cochrane review of multiple studies into HBOT has shown that there may be some improvement in the Glasgow Coma Score for people who receive the therapy in the early stages after severe traumatic brain injury. The effect of this on longer term outcome is unclear. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/232...

A trial of 56 children who sustained severe traumatic brain injury showed significantly better long-term outcomes for those who received HBOT than those who didn't. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/228...

A study by the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicing into the effects of HBOT on 50 soldiers who had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury showed no effect on their symptoms. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/230...

In contrast, another study of sixteen US military personnel with post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (which may confuse the issue) showed significant improvement in symptoms and brain scan results. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/220...

There are a number of other trials, but these seem to give a good overview. As you can see, the research that has been conducted seems to indicate there may be more benefit when HBOT is administered early after severe brain injury, and the effect on longer term symptoms is unclear. Given the positive stories from people on here and the research that has been conducted, this does seem a very interesting area.

With issues like this we would say to understand the risks/benefits and speak to your doctor before undertaking any treatments of this kind. I don't know of any UK trials into this at present, although others on this forum may know of some?

I hope this gives you a little more background, and explains our cautious interest in HBOT as a therapy. There have been a few other conversations about HBOT on here, so do search at the top for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Please don't hesitate to contact our helpline on 0808 800 2244 or helpline@headway.org.uk if you would like to discuss this with us directly.

Best wishes,

Headway.

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Thanks for the links to recent studies on HBOT being administered, I've only glanced at them and even though the results look mixed, but there does seem to benefit for some. I think it should be kept in mind that some research is only looking at the benefit of administering HBOT to those with an accute brain/head injury and it's potential to speed recovery and reduce mortality rates, whereas other research is focusing on it's application to treating chronic injuries.

Looking at those studies focusing on long-term disabilities, there's also very little consistency in the number of sessions and the intensity of treatment for example, in the study on US airmen finding no significant benefit, they receive only 30 sessions over 8 weeks (link 3), whereas in the next study participants received 40 sessions over 30 days, a far more intensive regime where the group benefitted overall (link 4). This is one major difference between the studies and it's difficult to compare and interpret, i'm sure there are others. It only emphasizes the need for further research.

I communicated with the British Hyperbaric Association recently, they were apparently willing to support any research that comes their way, but that depends on whether the NHS decides to fund research projects in the near future. I hope they make make the right choice and grant this area the attention it warrants.

As I mentioned, and as far as i'm aware, the NHS doesn't currently support HBOT treatment for traumatic brain injury, stroke, cerebral palsy and possibly multiple sclerosis. The reason for this seems to be that there's a lack of clear evidence that it works. However, there are several HBOT centres throughout the country for example, multiple sclerosis community centres that offer this treatment option for multiple sclerosis, autism, cerebral palsy, stroke and traumatic brain injury.

Since there aren't many effective treatment options available to those with brain disorders, i'd be willing to give this a try, but I don't know where to go or who to ask. I'm also conscious that I'd probably need to travel far from home and attend a number of sessions on a regular basis. Any information would be great.

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Hi AnthonyM,

Yes, I think the MS Therapy Centres are offering HBOT to people with other conditions and they have quite an extensive network of units, so you may not need to travel far.

I know some other Headway members have tried this by contacting their nearest centre to discuss the options, and many have found them to be very helpful. It sounds like you are doing a lot of research on and making your own choices based on this, which is really the best approach.

Any therapy centre looking to administer HBOT on you should ask for a letter from your GP to confirm you are fit for the treatment, which is of course something we'd advise too - it is always something that a doctor should have a say on as they know your medical condition and history.

We can't recommend them as Headway haven't examined their services and they are not officially recommended by the NHS for treatment of TBI, but searching online for 'MS Therapy Centres' should help. I imagine there are other providers, perhaps diving schools etc., but I don't have any details of these and couldn't comment on their suitability.

Please keep us informed, and best wishes,

Headway.

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its some time ago now initially we attended the Ms centre in teeside where there was 2 per day of 0ne hour at 2 atmospheres for 4 weeks making a total of 20 in bangkok the immersions were 2 hours long at 2 atmospheres so only 4 weeks to get 10 immersins which really classed as 20 the results were excellent if you wish to discuss it please send me a private message.

[Post edited slightly by admin]

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Thanku very much for the info, first hand experience is valuable information.

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I want to share an example of what HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) has done for someone with traumatic brain injury. The source is a book called 'The oxygen revolution' by Paul Harch M.D.. Before anyone complains, the book explicitly states the following:

"I hope you will pass on the information in these chapters to others because educated patients are in the best position to obtain treatment in a timely way."

CHAD'S CASE

"The use of HBOT for traumatic brain injuries is still emerging. However, we can show many examples in which great improvement has taken place when HBOT is added to neurorehabilitation protocols. For example, in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to treat an amazing young man. At that time, I was co-director of hyperbaric medicine in the emergency department at a small community hospital in Slidell, Louisiana. One Saturday morning, I arrived for my 12-hour emergency department shift and found that our only patient was a 19-year-old comatose male on a ventilator. The nurse on duty said that he’d sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, having fallen out of a car travelling at high speed on the interstate.

Since our small hospital was situated at the confluence of three interstate highways, we saw many patients with fairly severe injuries resulting from car accidents. I felt sad when I realized there was little I could do for this young man because, much to my regret, medical politics prevented me from treating him with HBOT. I was familiar with some of the literature on hyperbaric oxygen therapy in acute severe traumatic brain injury, and I believed that enough evidence had accumulated to justify using HBOT with severely brain-injured individuals. However, since the treatment was not approved for that use, I was not free to use it in these situations.

As it turned out, this young man, Chad Rovira, was Marlon and Charlene Rovira’s on. Marlon was a local veterinarian who had many friends among our staff physicians. He consulted with many of these doctors looking for the best possible treatments for Chad.

Chad’s accident resulted from what we all know as “youthful imprudence.” He and some friends were high on an inhalant known locally as “Blast,” and the accident resulted in Chad’s attempt to climb out one window and across the top of the moving car while in this chemically induced euphoric state. The incident ended up in tragedy, with Chad unconscious on the highway after landing directly on the right side of his forehead. His friends loaded him into the car and raced seven miles up the interstate to our hospital. The physician on duty had significant experience treating severe trauma and was able to intubate Chad very quickly (inserting a tube in the trachea to keep the airway open) before beginning tests, including a CT scan performed while Chad remained in a deep coma, unable to respond to any external stimuli. The scan of the brain showed bleeding between the skull and the covering of the brain and also between that covering and the brain itself. He also had small haemorrhages throughout the brain, which already showed signs of swelling. In addition, the scan revealed a fracture at the base of his skull.

Despite his lack of judgment on that particular night, Chad was a bright college freshman with aspirations of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. But the brain damage sustained in the accident severely limited his chances of living any semblance of a normal life, let alone becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. In truth, his chance of dying was significant. In this state, Chad might also have lingered in a coma for months or years, and had he regained consciousness it’s entirely possible that he would have been unable to talk or even think.

I wasn’t aware of it, but one of the doctors Marlon consulted mentioned that he had heard me give a talk on hyperbaric oxygen therapy the previous week. That year’s talk had been particularly noteworthy because I had started successfully treating divers for brain decompression illness, but in delayed fashion, meaning weeks to months after their diving incidents.

Recalling my presentation, one of the doctors consulting on Chad’s case suggested that I might be willing to consider treating him with HBOT. That same say, Marlon and a number of the consulting doctors asked for all the information I had on HBOT and traumatic brain injury. I quickly assembled it and passed it on to them, and by the end of my shift, Chad’s parents and a few of the doctors came back to see me. Even after I told them I couldn’t offer any guarantees, the parents asked me to treat their son.

Within three hours, my chief technician and I had Chad in the hyperbaric chamber on a ventilator, approximately 22 hours after his accident. We used a lower pressure than that typically used for decompression sickness or for chronic wounds. Once we reached the depth of pressurization intended, Chad began to vigorously over-breathe with the ventilator, and what we call “bucking” occurred. When he was placed in the chamber, he hadn’t been breathing on his own and was totally dependent on the ventilator. But at depth on oxygen his brain began to function and he started to come out of his coma by breathing on his own. Unlike sophisticated ventilators used in other emergency situations and intensive care, the hyperbaric ventilator is a crude device that doesn’t respond to a patient’s attempt to breathe. When Chad started breathing on his own, he and the ventilator were, in simple terms, out of synch. He was fighting the ventilator and to the untrained eye, it can look like a seizure to non-medical people, but this “bucking” is actually more like coughing.

His response meant that neurological activity developed while in the chamber at depth, which indicated improved neurological function. We brought the bucking under control by heavily sedating Chad through an IV. Moving forward, Chad had two HBOT treatments a day, which brought about rapid improvement and eventually enabled us to remove his breathing tube. Within a week, while Chad was still comatose, we did a brain blood flow scan using the hospital’s low-resolution machine. The radiologist read it as normal, but this made no sense. How could a comatose Chad with acute severe traumatic brain injury have normal brain blood flow? He couldn’t; it was impossible. The problem was that the scanner didn’t have the ability to show the injury. Although this caused consternation amongst the doctors in Chad’s case it had no impact on his HBOT since the decision to use HBOT was not dependent on the SPECT scan. In chronic brain injury, however, where the residual effects of injury are often disputed, a falsely “normal” SPECT brain blood flow scan be devastating to a patient’s credibility. It is equally damaging if the radiologist has very little experience reading SPECT brain imaging and reads an abnormal scan as “normal.” I mention these problems with SPECT brain imaging because they’re not unusual. Should you ever find yourself in a situation in which you need accurate answers about a loved one’s condition, I want you to be familiar with the nuances of SPECT scanning.

In Chad’s case, we transported him to a different hospital that had a high resolution scanner, which I had used to evaluate the successful treatment of two divers the previous year. Those cases had formed the basis of the lecture I presented at our hospital and which convinced Chad’s parents to try HBOT in the first place. Chad’s second brain scan revealed a profoundly abnormal brain, which made sense to me, given the nature of the trauma. This meant that we had objective laboratory testing that was congruent with Chad’s clinical condition.

We continued HBOT and Chad made substantial gains, including emerging from the coma. We eventually transferred him to a local rehabilitation facility. Chad’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Lou Provenza, remarked that he had never seen a patient with this degree of brain trauma recovery so rapidly. Chad also received weeks of additional treatment at my hospital’s hyperbaric facility, and during these weeks he began to walk and talk.

I nicknamed him “Lazarus” because his rapid recovery was nothing short of amazing. In four to six weeks, he’d gone from comatose and unresponsive, to a walking, talking individual. Eleven weeks after starting his therapy, Marlon wanted Chad to settle into this new rehab hospital.

A month went by and I heard nothing more. I wondered what had happened, but I also knew that it was highly likely the physicians in charge of Chad’s case had filled his parents’ heads with all sorts of inaccuracies about HBOT. Eventually I called Chad’s father and he said they’d decided not to do anymore HBOT. When I asked what had brought him to this decision, he admitted that the physicians at the new facility had disparaged the treatment to the extent that he believed he couldn’t override their objections. Reluctantly, I said that I understood, but I asked Marlon to periodically let me know how Chad was doing.

A couple of months went by before I heard from Marlon, and when he called, he admitted that he was disappointed in the neurorehabilitation program. Except for a slight improvement in neurological abilities, which occurred during the first week or two of treatment, the subsequent 11 weeks had brought no further gains. By this time, Marlon was fed up with the other doctors’ with the same type of injury as Chad’s (sub-arachnoid hemorrhage) develop a condition in which the fluid circulation system in the brain is blocked by blood that has plugged the pores that reabsorb the fluid in the covering of the brain (obstructive hydrocephalus). When this happens, the neurological improvements stops and the patient’s condition eventually worsens. I assumed that if Chad had made almost no improvement in three months at the best brain injury rehabilitation centre in the city then obstructive hydrocephalus was likely the cause. So before resuming HBOT, we needed a neurosurgeon to evaluate him for hydrocephalus.

I wanted to ensure that by the end of Chad’s treatment, we had indisputable proof and no question remained that hyperbaric oxygen had led to his neurological and cognitive improvements. Chad’s father agreed to all my requests and notified the staff.

After the neurosurgeon cleared him of any possibility of hydrocephalus we proceeded with a set of functional brain imaging scans of the type that we had previously tracked Chad’s rather amazing improvement. I repeated his brain blood flow scan under near-identical conditions as those of his previous scans. The scan now showed some deterioration in the right frontal and right back sides of the brain. This was not surprising because one of Chad’s biggest problems was his lack of insight or understanding of his condition. For example, Chad didn’t believe he had a brain injury, so despite a spastic right hand, he still firmly thought he was going to be an orthopaedic surgeon. This lack of understanding was a major impediment to his further rehabilitation. In the human brain, the frontal lobe areas are involved with our ability to plan ahead and evaluate facts and impressions. This area also controls social interactions, or socialization in general.

After doing a brain blood flow scan, Chad had one HBOT treatment, and I repeated the scan. We saw improvement in many areas, including the right frontal area. Because of that improvement, I told the care team that this was the evidence I wanted – it demonstrated that I could still help him and that we would be able to document the improvements with a picture.

About five weeks into the HBOT therapy, I received a phone call from one of the staff at the rehab institute. According to this staff member, Chad showed negative side effects. Specifically, profuse sweating, elevated blood pressure, and depression. I hadn’t noticed any of these negative signs during Chad’s daily trips to our clinic, but I immediately stopped the HBOT and called for an emergency conference with his care team at the hospital.

During that conference I learned that Chad had begun playing tennis, a sport in which he’s excelled before his accident. I was amazed he was able to play tennis at all and asked if he’d been playing tennis before we started this round of hyperbaric oxygen.

As I t turned out, his balance had been so poor he couldn’t play any sport, so I pointed out that this recent development showed an important neurological gain. (I learned 16 years later that, unfortunately, this improvement was not permanent). I kept asking questions and learned that Chad’s balance had improved to the point that he could ride a two-wheel bicycle. Only a short time before, he’d struggled with a three-wheeled bike. Clearly, Chad’s balance had improved overall.

When I asked about Chad’s sweating, it turned out that this occurred during his tennis matches. Since it was late May in New Orleans, when temperatures were approaching 90 degrees and the humidity was 90 to 95 percent, anyone would sweat a great deal while playing tennis. Besides, as Marlon pointed out, Chad had sweat profusely during all his life in New Orleans.

The elevated blood pressure puzzled me, but after asking a few questions, I learned that they measured his blood pressure at the same time he was sweating, which was while he played tennis. Since everyone’s blood pressure rises during exertion and sporting events, taking blood pressure at that time didn’t make much sense. In fact, no one took his blood pressure in the morning or at the same time of day on a repetitive basis.

Finally, we addressed the depression issue. Chad had apparently started talking about his brain injury – he finally realised what had happened and he also spoke about the problems with his right hand. He was in the process of fully grasping that his handicaps resulting from the accident would likely prevent him from becoming an orthopaedic surgeon, his life-long dream. As you are no doubt thinking, Chad’s response, his grieving, was actually a sign of progress. “Wasn’t his lack of insight hindering his neurorehabilitation?” I asked. It was normal that Chad grieve a loss that he had been unable to perceive during the previous seven months. Finally, the care team acknowledged that this was the gain they had been waiting for.

Over the previous few years, I had devised treatment protocols, and Chad received blocks of 40 treatments. We were getting close to 80 treatments when Chad said he wanted to stop HBOT because it was interfering with his plans to go back to college. I was dumbstruck. Returning to college had not been part of my original expectations for Chad. I had hoped he’d gain insight, physical balance, and some intellectual improvements, but I hadn’t envisioned college. When I asked if he felt intellectually capable of college work, he answered with clear irritation in his voice. “Dr. Harch, I have been trying to tell you now for weeks and weeks that my maths ability has improved so much that I know I’m able to handle maths classes again.”

At that point, he stopped treatment, and I told him that with all the testing we were doing, we could demonstrate his recovered abilities. Chad enrolled at the local junior college, and the neuropsychologist on the care team administered repeated psychometric testing that showed a number of cognitive improvements, the greatest of which was a 40 percentile improvement in written computational maths. This was a huge change, highly statistically significant, and unquestionably not a chance event. Only three months earlier, Chad had been “locked” in a five month clinical plateau. Before we reinstituted HBOT, he showed no neurocognitive improvement. Overall, we had clinical and testing improvements that seemed to match. The SPECT brain scan repeated at the conclusion of HBOT showed an improvement in brain blood flow throughout the brain, but especially in Chad’s right frontal lobe.

At Chad’s final visit to my clinic, we videotaped an exit exam and interview. I repeated the sequence of exams items and questions that I’d done three months before ( and many months before at the time of his transfer to the rehab institute), the point at which we’d started this final round of HBOT. At one point I asked Chad if he still believed he had not sustained any brain damage.

Chad’s response was quite unexpected. He began to squirm and look almost angry at the impropriety of my question. But it was the same question I had posed to him many times, three, six, and nine to ten months before.

“I need to correct you,” he said. “I am not brain-damaged, I have a brain injury, and I think you need to use the proper terminology.”

So, not only did he have insight, he was intellectually capable of interacting with me about my pejorative term for his condition. Well, I stood corrected and immediately apologised.

To me, this exchange was the proverbial icing on the cake. His simple statement provided proof of this remarkable cognitive improvement, brought about with a few months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivered nine months and five months after the cognitive therapy and other rehabilitation strategies had failed.

Chad went on to complete some college courses and found a job at a New Orleans area bank. Although initially hired under a special program, he’s received multiple promotions. A few years ago he happened to see me on a television segment about other patients treated with HBOT. Chad recognized me and his father called and invited me to visit. Although Chad is not completely normal, he functions at levels beyond what anyone ever expected.

Furthermore, HBOT had a quite unexpected result that his father reminds me about every time I speak with him. Since Chad’s injury and subsequent HBOT, he has not had a single day of illness – in 16 years not one cold, intestinal infection, cough, episode of flu, or any other illness. This is quite remarkable. Interestingly, this phenomenon has also been reported by the mothers of some of the brain-injured children I have treated. Many of these children are very sickly in addition to their brain injury, but after HBOT their immune system begins to work more normally.

We know that the immune system and the brain are very closely connected and we know that HBOT has a profound effects on the acute inflammatory reaction and additional effects in chronic immune problems. It is not so farfetched to assume that HBOT is having beneficial effects on a deranged immune system in these children, as well as in Chad.

What Chad’s story – his case history – tells us is that hyperbaric oxygen has enormous potential in treating acute, severe traumatic brain injury, even in delayed fashion. In Chad’s case, we were able to immediately intervene. And in a very real sense, the course of his 10-month treatment provides important information and data. It is like a study in itself in

which:

•We introduced a therapy from which the patient, Chad, benefitted.

•Then, when the therapy stopped Chad made no further improvement.

•When we reintroduced the therapy, Chad noticeable gains we could show from various types of testing.

Chad’s case is now eighteen years old. Recently, I reconnected with Chad at a brain injury fundraiser in New Orleans, when we happened to end up in the same booth. Chad attended to support brain injury survivors’ group, and we had a gratifying reunion. It was great to see him doing so well after all of these years. Multiple studies have shown that we can reduce the death rate if we treat this type of injury with HBOT within the first few days after the injury. Cases like Chad’s illuminate the potential of HBOT to transform the entire field of emergency medicine. For the most part, brain-injured individuals are emergency patients first, as are roughly 500,000 annual survivors of stroke.

Here's a related video:

youtube.com/watch?feature=p...

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Article reporting finds of recent study investigating Hyperbaric oxygen therapy use on brain injured.

israel21c.org/health/oxygen...

We always think of brain damage as irreversible, whether it’s a result of a stroke, traumatic injury or metabolic disorder. But three Israeli researchers recently reported that treatment with high levels of oxygen can reinvigorate dormant neurons and improve patients’ motor function, memory and other abilities that current therapy and rehab programs aren’t able to address.

Their study focused on post-stroke patients and used hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) – high-pressure chambers where the oxygen-rich air increases oxygen levels in the body tenfold.

As reported in the journal PLoS ONE on January 15, analysis of brain imaging showed significantly increased neuronal activity after a two-month period of HBOT treatment, compared to control periods of non-treatment.

Patients experienced measurable improvements in neurological function such as a reversal of paralysis, increased sensation and renewed use of language — even years after their stroke.

The study was carried out by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, led by Dr. Shai Efrati and Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob. They predict that the HBOT method could make a world of difference in the daily life of people with brain damage, helping them regain a measure of independence and complete tasks such as bathing, cooking, climbing stairs or reading a book.

Could also ward off dementia?

Efrati explained that there are several degrees of brain injury. HBOT specifically targets those neurons that retain enough energy to stay alive but not enough to fire electrical signals.

Though the brain normally consumes 20 percent of the body’s oxygen, that can only operate five to 10 percent of neurons at any one time. The researchers theorized that much more oxygen is necessary to rebuild neuronal connections and stimulate inactive neurons to begin healing.

For their study, the Israelis sought post-stroke patients whose condition was no longer improving. After assessing candidates’ brain features and functionality, 74 participants – who’d suffered a stroke between six and 36 months previously — were divided into two groups.

The first treatment group received HBOT from the beginning of the study, and the second received no treatment for two months, then received a two-month period of HBOT treatment consisting of 40 two-hour sessions five times a week in high-pressure chambers containing oxygen-rich air.

Efrati said he has seen similar improvement in patients whose brain injuries occurred up to 20 years before, challenging the accepted wisdom that the brain has a limited window for growth and change.

“The findings challenge the leading paradigm since they demonstrate beyond any doubt that neuroplasticity can still be activated for months and years after acute brain injury, thus revealing that many aspects of the brain remain plastic into adulthood,” said Ben-Jacob.

The researchers are now conducting a study on the benefits of HBOT for those with traumatic brain injury. This treatment also has potential as an anti-aging therapy, applicable in other disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at their early stages.

“It is now understood that many brain disorders are related to inefficient energy supply to the brain,” explained Efrati. “HBOT treatment could right such metabolic abnormalities before the onset of full dementia, where there is still potential for recovery.”

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Related study to above post:

plosone.org/article/info%3A...

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telegraph.co.uk/health/alte...

Why is a remarkable treatment being denied to thousands of desperate patients? Elizabeth Grice reports

Andrew Waddington is as limp as a sleeping child in his father's arms. But he is not asleep and there is something disturbing about this kind of floppiness. His head is lolling and swinging. His limbs seem weak and uncontrolled.

Ten years ago, during a routine 10-minute operation to correct an undescended testicle, Andrew was deprived of oxygen. The medical accident, known euphemistically as "acquired brain injury", left him with a condition resembling cerebral palsy.

Now he is 13, a handsome boy who communicates by moving his heavy head in a semi-circle - right for yes, left for no, and subtle gradations in between, on a scale of one to 10.

"How was school today, Andrew?" his mother, Teresa, asks him. His head sweeps round three-quarters of the arc towards the right. "I see, seven out of 10."

"He may appear to be a terrible case," Teresa says, "but if you had seen him before you'd realise just how far he has come. He could not see. He could not understand. He cried all day. We spent all our time trying to alleviate his distress.

"We were told he would probably only ever recognise me as a 'familiar smell'. Doctors said there was no hope; to put him in a home, to have another child."

Andrew spent 21 months at Alder Hey Hospital's brain injury unit in Liverpool. Then the Waddingtons heard about a children's naturopathic clinic in Lancaster, close to their home, run by former nurse and midwife Jane Dean. In desperation, they took him to see her.

"Andrew's body was curved like a banana," recalls Dean. "He had no control over any of his muscles and was being fed through a tube. He was on 16 different kinds of medication. There was no cognition at all.

"He had that high-pitched 'cerebral' cry that, once you have heard, you hope never to hear again in your life. My heart went out to him. I thought, 'Surely there must be more we can do.'"

Dean had recently watched a television programme about the remarkable healing powers of oxygen administered under pressure, known as hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT). She decided to see if it would help Andrew.

She rented a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and had it installed on an industrial estate in Lancaster. For six months, Andrew was treated there three to five times a week.

He has now been receiving HBOT for eight years and his improvement, say his parents, is little short of miraculous. "Before the treatment, his body was tight all the time," says Teresa. "His understanding came back very quickly. To begin with, he couldn't see. But now he can read, his maths is good and he can tell the time. He is starting to be able to squeeze a switch, which could open up a new form of communication. We take him to football matches and to horse-riding for the disabled. He remembers everything. He will never walk, but we have our child back. I believe in my heart that if he had gone into a hyperbaric oxygen chamber as soon as the accident happened, he would probably have been OK."

Doctors might be more circumspect, perhaps, but access to HBOT for Andrew at the time of his accident would have been as unlikely then as it is now for thousands of people who could benefit from it.

Most doctors are unaware of the therapeutic potential of oxygen because they are not taught about it as medical students. However, research shows that not only can it reverse potentially fatal conditions, such as radiation tissue damage, carbon-monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene and necrosis (when tissue dies following infection), it is also effective for wounds that fail to heal and a wide range of other conditions, including multiple sclerosis.

Oxygen is crucial to tissue repair, but its delivery is often impaired by damage to blood vessels. Breathing high levels under hyperbaric conditions (increased atmospheric pressure) raises the amount of dissolved oxygen in the circulation - so more reaches the tissues.

The Daily Telegraph recently highlighted the case of Lisa Norris, 16, who suffered a massive radiation overdose during treatment for a brain tumour. Her symptoms included a severely burned scalp, which healed after several sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Following that article - which mentioned HBOT's therapeutic applications - many desperate people contacted us, wanting to know where their nearest unit was. The news is not good: oxygen chambers cost about £50,000 and most of the 75 hyperbaric centres in Britain are run by charities, principally for MS sufferers. A few are privately run, mostly for the victims of diving accidents, but there are only five NHS units.

"It is ironic that the most powerful intervention in medicine is being used by lay people in the community,'' says Prof Philip James, Britain's leading expert in HBOT, who is based at the University of Dundee.

Part of the problem, according to Jane Dean, is that HBOT is considered "alternative" and people are scared of going against their doctor or consultant's advice.

Dean, who, following her experience with Andrew Waddington, founded the Breath for Life charity to provide HBOT, says charities such as hers face other problems.

"Our centre is very small, yet it is unjustly classified as an independent private hospital with specialist technology. It is run by volunteers and has only one paid member of staff, yet we are being asked by the Healthcare Commission [the independent health inspection organisation] to pay the same annual inspection fee - £1,500 - as commercially run centres.

"The struggle for survival is acute. Day to day, we wonder if we will have enough money to pay British Oxygen Company [oxygen costs £1,000 a month]."

Leanne Walker, a psychology student who suffered brain damage following encephalitis, is one of the centre's most moving success stories.

"In the beginning, she woke up every day begging me to kill her," says her mother, Susan. "She told me later that she only called me Mum because she thought it would make me feel better. She didn't really know who I was. She went back to being a child and lost all sense of appropriate behaviour. We had to teach her everything, even the names of objects like cups and saucers. She had no long-term memory, and her short-term memory was about 30 seconds."

After four weeks of treatment at the Breath for Life centre, 25-year-old Leanne's memory started to improve. "One day she remembered something she had done the day before. It was a wonderful breakthrough," says her mother.

She was treated for an hour and a half three times a week for three months, then once a week. "We dared not miss it. Her improvement amazed us." Leanne was able to repeat her first-year course at Lancaster University, graduated with a 2:1 and now has a part-time job as a teaching assistant.

On the day I visit, Breath for Life's tiny premises are crowded with unofficial ambassadors for HBOT, each eager to produce living proof of its efficacy. George Birkett carries his 13-year-old grandson, Thomas McNulty, into the eight-seater chamber and adjusts his mask. The boy's crumpled body had been knotted with discomfort. As the oxygen floods through, he visibly relaxes and quietens.

Thomas was born 25 weeks prematurely with cerebral palsy. Before HBOT, says his grandfather, his quality of life was poor. "This chamber is his lifeline, without a doubt. The first thing we noticed when we started treatment was that his hands, which had been clenched tight, opened on their own. Then his speech improved and gradually his personality blossomed."

Zoe Greenwood, 51, has come in with daughter, Rebecca, aged 17, who has dyspraxia (severe coordination and communication problems). Rebecca has been having HBOT for five years. When she started using the chamber, her speech was unintelligible. Now she can express herself fluently, says her mother.

There is much ignorance and scepticism in the medical profession about HBOT, according to Prof James: "Patients who've heard about it obviously expect doctors to know something but, if it is not routinely taught, how can they?"

The hand-to-mouth existence of a non-profit-making centre such as Breath for Life is shaming. The charity charges £10 for children and £25 for adults for a 90-minute session in the oxygen chamber, compared with fees of up to £380 an hour charged by some private units.

The centre has just been threatened with "enforcement procedures" by the Healthcare Commission unless it pays £580 for one of its staff, Dave Holehouse, a life-support technician with 25 years' experience, to attend a course qualifying him to inspect the centre's 45ft oxygen pipeline.

"We have not got all the fancy gases they have in hospitals, delivered through miles of pipes," he says, "but we are being treated as if we had. Ninety-eight per cent of the course I won't need for my job and the other two per cent I already know."

The Healthcare Commission says it is trying to interpret statutory safety requirements sensitively but that charity staff must have "relevant and up-to-date training". Few would disagree, especially where vulnerable patients - many of them children - are concerned.

But there does appear to be an argument for charities providing services the NHS cannot - or does not want to - to have special status.

Jane Dean wants the Department of Health to reclassify charitable hyperbaric oxygen treatment centres as hospices, which have lower registration and inspection fees. "We are a tiny little postage stamp on the face of the earth, but we are plugging health service shortcomings on a daily basis. Surely that counts for something.''

For more information on HBOT, see dundee.ac.uk/surgery/hyperb... abreathforlife.org, tel: 01524 855422; ms-selfhelp.org.

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