Traumatic Brain Injury

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury

DISCLAIMER: This information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Anyone who wishes to embark on any medical program intended to prevent or treat a specific disease or condition should first consult with a qualified physician.

Conditions that harm the brain have a wide reach, which can range from a stroke (vascular accident) to a traumatic brain injury. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is not a cure, but can often help. Though research and experience have shown differently, the old idea often still remains: that once an area of the brain has been damaged by a stroke, TBI (traumatic brain injury), or near drowning, that nothing or very little can be done to restore the function of that area.

Recent scientific research has demonstrated that while the core-area of the damaged brain tissue may be irreversibly damaged, there is an area surrounding this tissue that HBOT can restore, and these neurons (brain/nerve cells) can re-establish their function. HBOT does not revive dead brain tissue, but can facilitate the functioning of those dormant, idling nerve cells that have suffered secondary damage by stroke due to diminished oxygen. Oftentimes, the brain area suffering secondary damage is a larger part of the brain than that which suffered the primary damage. This area of secondary damage to the brain, called the ischemic penumbra, is the area that HBOT can benefit.

The majority of stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack), and brain injuries are caused by blood vessel obstructions, such as a blood clot, that cut off blood flow and oxygen to parts of the brain. This results in the death of nerve cells within a very short time. These dying brain cells begin to swell due to their cell walls breaking down, allowing fluid to move into the cells. As these cells swell, they begin to expand into the surrounding tissues. This causes constriction of the blood vessels in the surrounding tissues, which then causes a lack of oxygen to these previously normal cells. These surrounding cells then begin to swell as well. This gradually-increasing, damaged, hypoxic tissue surrounding the original injury contributes up to 85% of the disability resulting from a stroke. The cells in this secondary area have the potential of being restored to near-normal, and sometimes normal function.

Proof of this dormant life of the brain’s cells has been demonstrated with the use of SPECT brain scans done before and after a series of HBOT. Studies demonstrate the development of new blood vessels to the rim of tissue surrounding the area of the brain that had been damaged. These newly formed blood vessels resulting from HBOT can then bring fresh blood (oxygen) and nutrients to the damaged tissue. The tissue begins to repair itself and returns to normal or near-normal. These revived neurons gradually reconnect to the rest of the brain and help return the use of lost cerebral and bodily functions.

Oxygen is a natural gas that is absolutely necessary for life and healing. Oxygen under pressure is still the same gas, but more able to penetrate into parts of the body where arterial flow is hindered. In addition to raising arterial levels of oxygen 10 to 15 times greater than that produced by normal atmospheric pressure, the pressure exerted within the body produces therapeutic benefits on acute and chronically traumatized and swollen tissues.

Neuroscientists have suggested that crippled nerve cells may persist in the margins of wounds of the brain for many years. Studies show improvements have been achieved even with patients who are more than a decade past the initial stroke.

Click Here for a study of how HBOT Can Improve Post Concussion Syndrome Years after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury