Health and Fitness

How Effective is Hyperbaric Therapy for Brain Injury?

For over years, cases of brain injury have been subjected to conventional palliative care involving sedatives and painkillers.

As such, hyperbaric therapy for brain injury has been introduced and subsequently withdrawn and re-introduced several times. It was often looked at as the last possible resort to treat cases that otherwise didn’t show any positive results.

With brain injury considered as extremely serious among all public health issues, treatment for surviving patients mostly revolve around communicative, behavioral, and cognitive standpoints. To date, there has been no definite treatment option to alleviate issues arising out of traumatic brain injuries.

Arguably, hyperbaric therapy witnessed success in dealing with patients surviving a major stroke. However, its effectiveness in treating brain injury remains debatable.

In this post, we take a closer look at the findings of clinical and experimental trials using hyperbaric therapy for brain injury. In essence, it calls for a mull-over the mechanism involved, the success rate and considerations along with understanding opinions and discussions for a future breakthrough.

A singular approach that is due for FDA approval

Hyperbaric therapy has been long identified by many physicians as an effective remedy for multiple conditions. Quite similar to what one would refer to as off label use of medication, hyperbaric therapy turned out to be successful for treating a range of neurological conditions including brain injuries. The efficiency of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been persistent across both animals as well as human trials. However, the lack of sham pressure has made it impossible to hold placebo-controlled trials (double-blinded). As an obvious consequence, the FDA officially doesn’t approve hyperbaric therapy for treating traumatic brain injuries. To make matters worse, the insurance also does not offer coverage.

A skeptic outlook towards its efficiency

Time and again, the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy has shown dramatic improvement in a patient’s condition suffering from brain injury. This includes both new as well as old head injuries.

However, such newfound views are generally met with hard-boiled medical skepticism. Traditional medical researchers rest their case as any patient with more than six months of post-concussion symptoms is a fatal call.

Treatment options have been limited to rehabilitation services and symptoms management only. Despite its success in several cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy for brain injury is rejected even as fundamental efforts of healing. Patients too seeking permanent treatment become discouraged as lack of insurance adds fire to the fuel beside the ongoing skepticism.

By all means, only an in-depth understanding and subsequent consideration of both physiological and pathophysiological effects of the therapy can such skepticism be warded off for good.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy-A pathophysiological outlook

Another clinical study depicts when a hyper-oxygenated condition is maintained over a long period, it leads to a good amount of oxidative damage.

Alternately, when it is pulse controlled for no more than an hour, it facilitates a multitude of healing processes without disrupting natural antioxidants within the human body. No wonder, hyperbaric therapy for brain injury has made way towards evolving studies for treating cerebral palsy.

Incidentally, a case of cerebral palsy is often looked at as a perinatal element to traumatic brain injuries. Patients suffering from cerebral palsy have shown significant improvement when subjected to hyperbaric therapies. It’s noteworthy how the effect of hyperbaric therapy for brain injury is a permanent one, but in some cases, the patients might turn vulnerable to other forms of injuries.

Multiple clinical trials and experiences cite other medical conditions like sclerosis and Alzheimer’s being treated by hyperbaric oxygen therapy. While complete recovery remains a far cry, things did start to look better following three to four sessions of hyperbaric chamber time.

Currently, the mechanisms that are followed have shown great anti-inflammatory properties, stimulation of the immune system, stem cell mobilization arising out of bone marrow, enhanced blood perfusion, axonal regrowth, and marked reduction of edema.

When a brain injury occurs, the site of impact can make way to turn into a bruise starting to bleed, and finally a neuronal death. As such, inflammation occurs around the area of impact. Now, since our brains are enclosed safely within the skull, there occurs an increased pressure around the area. This in turn leads to reduced blood flow, causing further damage to the cortex where the initial injury had taken place.

It is within the penumbra that the neurons are injured and hence are unable to transmit the impulses. However, they can still carry on to survive even in this idle state as mentioned in The Oxygen Revolution.

Wrap up

As emerging forms of treatment continue to make significant breakthroughs in the future, the role of hyperbaric therapy for brain injury will hold a special place. Although the success rate of this particular form of treatment has failed to inspire traditional medical researchers, its efficiency in treating brain injury is not to be overlooked.

When one takes into account the high incidence of such serious public issues, hyperbaric therapy stands a worthy choice compared to other forms of treatment. Barring all other conditions, perhaps the only challenge is the not so wide availability of hyperbaric chambers that makes the therapy inaccessible for many patients.

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