Willow Bend
Plano, TX

(972) 403-0403

Considerations for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Brain Injury Treatment

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI/PTSD)

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) works by placing patients in a hyperbaric chamber, pressurized with 100% pure oxygen. In alignment with Boyle’s Law, this decreases gas bubbles in conditions like decompression sickness and arterial gas embolisms, and under Henry’s Law, it increases the amount of oxygen dissolved in a person’s blood serum. Currently in the USA, 13 different conditions are FDA approved for HBOT treatment; traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not one of them.  There are many more conditions approved in the rest of the world.

Why hasn’t this treatment been approved for TBI? After all, case studies on hyperbaric oxygen therapy and traumatic brain injury have shown it to be effective in dramatically improving chronic TBI, even after months or years have passed since the original injury. In fact, a number of neurological conditions have been shown to respond favorably to HBOT, including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There is published literature supporting the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for brain injury, but unfortunately, because it’s not possible to imitate pressure, it’s also impossible to create rigorous double-blind placebo-controlled trials. This means the FDA cannot approve HBOT for TBI, so your insurance is unlikely to pay for it.

What’s more, there is a fair amount of skepticism within the medical establishment regarding treating TBI with HBOT. This is because the general consensus is that post-concussion symptoms that last for more than six months after a head injury are permanent. For generations, doctors have been taught that these kinds of symptoms are due to irreparable brain damage and can only be treated with symptom management and rehabilitative services. This skepticism, combined with a lack of insurance coverage, makes it extremely difficult for patients to receive treatment. However, understanding the mechanisms at work in hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help alleviate uncertainty about the treatment’s efficacy.

How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help with Brain Injury?

The air we normally breathe contains about 21 percent oxygen, and about three percent of this oxygen is dissolved in blood serum. By the time the blood gets to the mitochondria, there is only a trace amount of oxygen. HBOT temporarily hyper-oxygenates body tissues, dramatically increasing the dissolved oxygen in the blood. A hyper-oxygenated state triggers and accelerates several of the body’s healing processes.

Traumatic brain injuries involve what is essentially a bruise. Inflammation develops around this injury over hours to days, and since the brain’s swelling is limited by the skull, pressure is increased in the area. The pressure reduces blood flow and damages a larger area of cortex than was affected by the initial injury. Neurons can be injured, and won’t be able to transmit neuronal impulses, but they can survive indefinitely, in a stunned state. When the condition stabilizes and blood flow returns, it is often not enough to restore these neurons. By imbuing the blood with additional oxygen, HBOT allows more oxygen to travel to the injured, oxygen starved tissues in the brain, helping to repair the damage, while simultaneously reducing the inflammation. It is important to note, however, that this should be done under the supervision of medical professionals, as the correct pressure makes a big difference in the effects of HBOT. High pressure HBOT can cause further neurological damage, while treatment at lower pressures is safe and effective.

Look to the Experts in Hyperbaric Medicine for Answers

Innovators in hyperbaric medicine, Baromedical Associates provides the most advanced and effective therapy available, offering expert services in a luxurious, private setting. Our certified, experienced technicians and multi-disciplinary physicians work to provide each individual with a treatment program designed to offer the best possible outcome. We are internationally known for our work with children, and we treat all ages at our clinics in the Dallas Metro area. All of our patient’s with TBI, have had improvement following a course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, some exceptional recovery. At all of our state-of-the-art clinics, patients receive Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in the world’s most advanced and spacious acrylic single person chambers. To find a location or for more information, contact us through our website.

Skip to content