Hyperbaric Oxygen: : Hope and Healing for the Injured Brain
Mar 01, 2013 07:53PM
● By Adam Breiner, ND
Over the course of his childhood and teens, Josh, an athletic young man, experienced a number of traumatic head injuries which were diagnosed as concussions. A terrible skiing accident, in which his head hit a rock formation, left Josh with difficulty concentrating, memory problems, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and a host of symptoms which doctors described as post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. His functioning was so impaired that he had to drop out of school. Nothing seemed to help him until he tried Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. After a series of treatments which involved lying inside a special chamber in which he received 100% oxygen under pressure, he was able to return to school and excel in his studies.
Although Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, HBOT, has been around for a few hundred years, it has recently been receiving more attention from the general medical community. Hospitals across the country have been opening HBOT facilities. Most often these facilities deal with non-healing wounds, particularly diabetic wounds. They also treat a limited number of other conditions including carbon monoxide inhalation, crush injuries, decompression illness, radiation tissue damage, etc. It is unfortunate that the list of conditions hospitals treat with HBOT is so limited, because there are many other conditions that can be healed or improved using this therapy. One area in particular that has shown great promise is in the treatment of neurological conditions that have failed to respond to or have been minimally helped by other more traditional therapies.
In order to understand how Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can help the wounded brain after a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, or any event involving a decrease in blood supply to a particular part of the body, it is important to examine what such injuries involve. There is usually an initial stage which involves significant swelling of the affected area. HBOT can greatly reduce and resolve the inflammation at this initial stage. Even without HBOT, some of this swelling will decrease over time. Some of it, however, will linger as chronic inflammation, and this, too, will respond to HBOT. While some neurons (nerve cells) in the affected area may be dead, others may be in a state of limbo because blood flow to them has been significantly diminished. Because oxygen-rich blood is no longer feeding these neurons, these oxygen-starved cells will underperform. One can actually see these areas of high or low blood flow when a sophisticated brain imaging system called a SPECT scan is used. Not only do these areas have high or low blood flow, but they also have high or low pressures of oxygen, the molecule that sustains life. It is these reduced levels of oxygen in the brain and other injured areas that account for the patients’ symptoms and difficulties in functioning. The obvious way to address these deficiencies is to provide to these areas oxygen under high pressure, otherwise known as hyperbaric oxygen.
The amount of pressure under which the oxygen is provided will vary based upon the condition being treated. Once the oxygen is being provided under pressure, it dissolves into the various fluids in the body to a much greater extent than is possible under normal atmospheric conditions. Furthermore, it reaches the cerebral spinal fluid, which traditionally has a very low concentration of oxygen. Once this super boost of dissolved oxygen gets into the cerebral spinal fluid, it reaches the brain and promotes healing and the formations of new capillaries to injured areas.
Recent research has shown that HBOT produces profound changes at the cellular level. Over 8,000 genes are regulated as a result of a single hyperbaric oxygen therapy session. There is also an eight-fold increase in the number of stem cells in circulation. These stem cells promote the growth of new tissue. Such discoveries have highlighted the impact of hyperbaric oxygen on the DNA/chromosomal level. In light of these findings, one might think of HBOT as a type of genetic therapy.
My clinic, Whole-Body Medicine, was the first facility in Connecticut to offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for the more cutting-edge conditions, including for traumatic brain injuries, strokes, autism, cerebral palsy, and others. Utilizing true hyperbaric oxygen chambers, as opposed to the low-pressure mild hyperbaric systems available at some facilities, we have achieved impressive results in many cases.
There are many wonderful things to say about the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen. To learn more about these and to answer questions you may have about this unusual treatment modality, visit WholeBodyMed.com and click on the link to view our video website. There you can learn more about this remarkable therapy and hear from some of the patients who have benefitted from this amazing treatment.
Dr. Adam Breiner is a licensed naturopathic physician. He practices at the Breiner Whole-Body Health Center in Trumbull, CT. The Center is comprised of Whole-Body Medicine, Whole-Body Dentistry, and Whole-Body Chiropractic. Whole-Body Medicine is unique in offering the powerful combination of HBOT and All Digital Real-Time EEG Neurobiofeedback in addition to many other natural healing modalities. Visit WholeBodyMed.com or call 203.371.8258 for more information. Whole-Body Medicine is located on the Fairfield/Trumbull line at 5520 Park Avenue.