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Benefits of Oxygen Therapy for Brain Injury Patients

For years now, proponents of hyperbaric oxygen therapy have claimed that the therapy can significantly help reduce the risk of long-term brain damage in persons who have suffered a brain injury. Recently, those claims appeared substantiated by the case of a brain-damaged three-year-old child who recovered significantly after being administered the therapy.

Claims of the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy have been met with skepticism for many years, because its proponents have found it difficult to explain exactly why the treatment works in helping reduce brain damage after an injury. However, a number of recent studies have found that even a single session of hyperbaric oxygen therapy can significantly impact tissue recovery rates in a person with brain damage. Each session of hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces cell death and inflammation, and boosts recovery, cell growth, and repair rates. That can be seen in the rate of recovery of persons with brain damage.

Experts point specifically to a recent case involving a three-year-old child who was found unconscious and unresponsive in her family’s swimming pool. The child had been deprived of oxygen for several minutes, and had suffered significant brain damage.  There were signs of brain shrinkage, and loss of gray matter. Roughly two months after the injury, the child was administered hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and her doctors and parents noticed an improvement within ten sessions of the therapy.

The child now has near to normal brain function levels after more than 40 sessions, and her brain which was shrunk post-injury has actually grown to the same size as before the injury.  Her doctors’ and parents’ observations are confirmed by MRI scans that have shown a reversal of the kind of brain injury the child suffered after the pool accident.

It is also important, however, to note that this is a single case involving an individual, in this case a young toddler with rich hormones and a positive, high-stimulation environment, who benefited from the therapy. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that another individual, with a different type of brain injury in a different environment and with different genes, would respond the same way to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Additional study of such successful examples are necessary in order to confirm the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Doctors who treated the young girl, however, believe that the age of the patient may be a non-issue. What could possibly make a significant impact is the stage at which the hyperbaric oxygen therapy is introduced. In other words, the sooner the patient is administered therapy, the greater the likelihood that he or she will completely recover.