How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries

Medical technology to treat various conditions and illnesses has rapidly transformed over the last few decades. As patients encounter more complex sicknesses, scientists and doctors have had to develop numerous effective treatments that are safe and compatible with minimal side effects. Thanks to these innovations, people have fought through severe diseases and lived longer, higher-quality lives.

One particular issue that doctors have struggled to treat is injuries or conditions of the brain. Since surgery isn’t always a safe option, patients have needed a non-invasive alternative. Fortunately, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a type of treatment that effectively treats many conditions, including traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

HBOT uses oxygen higher than atmospheric pressure to treat diseases. It produces 100 percent O2, which patients breathe in a pressurized hyperbaric oxygen chamber. While it sounds new, it dates back to the 1930s, when it was initially used to treat decompression illness in divers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved thirteen uses for HBOT, including gas gangrene, air embolism, radiation necrosis, decompression illness, and addition-diabetic ulcers.

Over the years, physicians have explored other possible conditions that respond to HBOT. Primary candidates include chronic neurological disorders, like TBI, as they’ve responded well to HBOT. It can drastically improve chronic TBI symptoms even years after the head injury, which bodes well for patients who wish to live their lives pain-free. It is even backed up by studies that have found that test subjects who underwent HBOT experienced significantly improved outcomes and quality of life.

What are the Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Around 97 percent of the blood’s total oxygen is secured to hemoglobin when breathing room air, typically at 21 percent O2, at sea level, where 3 percent of the oxygen is dissolved in the blood. Once the circulatory system diffuses the oxygen and finally reaches the mitochondria, there are only small amounts present. However, with HBOT, body tissues are briefly hyper-oxygenated, vastly increasing oxygen levels. 

This effect only occurs temporarily because a hyper-oxygenated state can cause damage when maintained for a long time. Still, when the body experiences this for an hour, it triggers multiple healing processes. Among these processes are an anti-inflammatory effect, increased blood perfusion, immune system stimulation, angiogenesis, and many more. With so many positive responses activated in the body, its many systems then work towards healing injuries. 

How Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries?

When an area of the brain is impacted, a contusion develops, which is essentially a bruise that often includes local bleeding and neuronal death. Over time, the area becomes inflamed, just as it would occur on an injury in other parts of the body. Since the skull protects the brain, swelling is constricted, leading to more pressure in the affected area. The increased pressure is dangerous, as it results in reduced blood flow, producing more extensive damage.

However, as HBOT infuses the body with 100 percent O2 when the patient is in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for an hour, it activates healing mechanisms everywhere, including the brain. As a result, it reduces the brain’s inflammation and swelling, improving brain processes and functions while restoring a better life quality and vitality.

Conclusion

Hyperbaric treatment is an excellent way to treat traumatic brain injury, as it produces dramatic effects in many neurological conditions that have minimal treatments other than palliative care. Given the relatively low cost of HBOT, its safety, and its straightforward procedure, it’s an ideal treatment for various conditions.

Valley Health & Hyperbarics NY is run by Dr. Jo Feingold, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The clinic offers advanced custom therapies, IV nutritional therapy, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Contact us today to book your appointment!