Cerebral Palsy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Over the past couple of weeks I have gotten a number of E-mails concerning Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy--what it is and how effective it is. I am not a doctor but I have done a little research in order to better serve my clients.
What Is HBOT?
HBOT is a medical treatment that requires the inhalation of 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber (greater than sea level) for a prescribed amount of time. HBOT causes both mechanical and physiologic effects by inducing a state of increased pressure and hperoxia. You are probably familiar with its use in treating scuba divers with "the bends." It has also had success in treating burns and difficult healing wounds. HBOT facilitates healing in these conditions by increasing the amound of oxygen in the blood by up to 2000 percent thus increasing the amount of oxygen in cells throughout the body. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduce swelling and allow new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas. It is a non-invasive and painless treatmen. Recently HBOT has been used in the treatment of patients who have brain injury, cerebral palsy and stroke. In the case of cerebral palsy in children, HBOT is administered at 1.5 ATA or equivalent to a depth of 16.5 feet below sea level. The length of treatment varies but typically in the first phase of treatment, the patient may have 40, 1-hour HBOT treatments.
How Effective Is HBOT Treatment?
The goal is to reduce swelling in the brain though it can not recover tissue which has been destroyed. Through SPECT imaging, areas of the brain which are not destroyed but are "sleeping" can be identified. Because the lack of oxygen leads to tissue swelling, HBOT could help resolve this issue by constricting blood vessels and delivering more oxygen to tissues in the brain. Unfortunately, at this point in time, studies are inconclusive. There are many testimonials on the internet which say that HBOT has helped reduce spasticity, improved vision, speech and even attention. At the same time, I have also found scientific studies that report that there is insufficient evident to determine whether the use of HBOT improves functional outcomes in children with cerebral palsy.
In conclusion, I would certainly recommend speaking with your child's doctor about the appropriateness of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for cerebral palsy. Here are the websites where you can read more: