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Benefits of Oxygen Therapy for Brain Injury Patients

For years now, proponents of hyperbaric oxygen therapy have claimed the therapy can significantly help reduce the risk of long-term brain damage in persons who have suffered a brain injury. Recently, a case study of a brain-damaged three-year-old child who recovered significantly after being administered the therapy offered support for these claims. The hope is that the approach described in the case study will help other individuals who have suffered a severe brain injury. These types of injuries are common in motorcycle accidents as well as any collision which occurs when vehicles are traveling at a high rate of speed.

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. When these claims arise in litigation, the experts are often challenges under Daubert, a federal case that has nationally redefined when expert testimony is admissible or should be excluded. 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. These studies may alter the admissibility of expert testimony since Daubert requires general scientific acceptance of principles to which an expert is testifying in court.

Experts point specifically to a recent case involving a three-year-old child who was found unconscious and unresponsive in her family 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. Around two months after the injury, the child was administered hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and her doctors and parents noticed an improvement within 10 sessions of the therapy.

The child is now near to normal brain function levels after more than 40 sessions, and her brain, which shrunk after the injury, has actually grown to the same size as before the injury. The 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. Such objective findings are extremely helpful in obtaining the admissibility of expert testimony of this nature. One of the criteria evaluated in a Daubert analysis is whether or not the theory asserted by the expert can be proven objectively.

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 does not 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. More numbers of such successful examples would be helpful in both confirming the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and to support the admissibility of testimony by experts related to this treatment for brain injury victims. However, this type of treatment is already widely used to assist with bone growth and, therefore, experts in this area will have added credibility when bridging the treatment to brain injuries.

Doctors who treated the young girl 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 will completely recover.  If this analysis proves correct, then how persons are treated when admitted to a hospital with a brain injury is likely to change drastically. Once this treatment is well established, then failure to provide the treatment could prove to be medical malpractice.

The Atlanta brain injury lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons who have suffered brain injuries in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia, helping them recover compensation for their losses.  If you wish to learn more about the firm and its practice in the area of brain injuries, please visit Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries