Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
and Cerebral Palsy

by Rashmi Gulati, MD
Rashmi Gulati Head Shot

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that impairs the brain's control of body movement. Patients sometimes also have mental impairment, visual problems, communicative disorders, seizures, and problems related to perception and sensation. The degree of disability, both physical and mental, varies from person to person, and although the damage to the brain does not worsen with age, symptoms may become more pronounced over time. Just as with Alzheimer's and autism treatments, it is thought that hyperbaric oxygen may have the ability to stimulate brain activity and help restore function to tissues near damaged areas. Researchers are still weighing the benefits of these treatments for those with cerebral palsy, though improvement has been seen in many individual cases.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy relieves the oxygen starvation of the brain known as hypoxia. Since full blood circulation to specific areas of the brain may be impaired, increasing the rate at which oxygen diffuses into all of the body's fluids increases the amount of oxygen carried to the hypoxic brain tissues. Oxygen-enriched cerebrospinal fluid will help to repair any recoverable brain tissue that is intact but not functioning normally.

In many cases, after hyperbaric oxygen treatment idling neurons start to function more efficiently, producing long-term improvements in both brain and clinical function. With the improvement of microcirculation and the relief of any brain swelling, a patient can experience a reduction in spasticity and an improvement in cognitive ability, vision, hearing, and speech.

With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, 100% oxygen is breathed at an atmospheric pressure appropriate for the condition being treated. In the case of cerebral palsy, the patient is treated at 1.5 atmospheres and not greater than 1.75, in either a monoplace or multiplace chamber. The chamber is pressurized, and when the appropriate pressure is reached the patient starts to breath 100% oxygen for 60 minutes. When the treatment is over, the pressure inside the chamber is slowly released, bringing the patient back to the atmospheric pressure of the outside of the chamber.

One needs only to scan the Internet for hundreds of testimonies from parents whose children with cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injuries have seen positive, life-changing results. These anecdotal reports are often dismissed by the medical establishment; however, this treatment can make a great difference to the life quality of the individuals concerned.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a therapy whose speed and outcomes cannot be precisely predicted. This situation is shared with most standard therapies for brain injury, the difference being that only hyperbaric oxygen can stimulate tissue to improve its function. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy used as an adjunct therapy with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy has given families one more tool to provide cerebral palsy victims the chance to achieve their full potential in life.

Informed parents should be the ones to make decisions for their children based on the information obtained through reading and educating themselves as to the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and a reasonable expectation for clinical improvement. MUMS, a parent-to-parent network, is an organization where information and support can be acquired. The Proceedings of the Second International Symposium for Hyperbaric Oxygenation in Cerebral Palsy and the Brain-Injured Child are also available, with scientific papers presented by medical practitioners from more than 14 countries who are studying the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury.

Patients Medical makes no claims as to hyperbaric oxygen therapy efficacy for any condition other than the indications approved by the FDA. Information within this site is provided for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your personal physician or any other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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