Wednesday , September 23 2020

Traumatic Brain Injury and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Can it Help?

Traumatic Brain Injury and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Can it Help?A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a blow to the head that damages the function and signaling of the brain. TBI’s can be mild to severe and they can cause immediate and long term damage. Depending on the severity.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that delivers 100% oxygen to a patient’s pulmonary system while they are within a pressurized chamber. This saturation of oxygen allows high-levels of life-sustaining oxygen to be delivered to the tissues and organs. This increase of the partial pressure of oxygen at the cellular level accelerates the healing processes and assists in the recovery from numerous indications.

In 2019, psychopharmacologist and integrative medicine practitioner, Bruce I. Goderez, MD wrote an interesting article on the research that has been surfacing regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI) and hyperbaric oxygen treatment.1

Just as practicing physicians routinely identify off-label uses for medications, over the years HBOT physicians have identified many other conditions that respond to HBOT. A number of chronic neurological conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been shown to respond particularly well. There is published literature supporting HBOT’s efficacy for TBI, including human trials and animal research, but due to the impossibility of arranging sham pressure there are no rigorous double-blind placebo-controlled trials.1 As a result, HBOT is not FDA-approved for TBI, and insurance will generally not pay for it.1

HBOT can dramatically and permanently improve symptoms of chronic TBI months or even many years after the original head injury. This assertion is generally met with skepticism within the medical establishment because we have been taught for generations that any post-concussion symptoms persisting more than 6 months or so after a head injury are due to permanent brain damage that cannot be repaired. Therefore, treatment has been limited to symptom management and rehabilitative services, and any claim suggesting that fundamental healing is possible is suspect. The combination of entrenched skepticism and lack of insurance coverage has made it very difficult for patients to access treatment.2

Another source of skepticism has been the large number of disparate conditions that are claimed to be helped by HBOT. A brief review of the mechanisms through which HBOT triggers healing responses, with particular reference to the modern understanding of the pathophysiology of TBI, provides a theoretical framework to explain these claims.1

If a hyper-oxygenated state is maintained for long periods it will cause significant oxidative damage, but when it is “pulsed” for an hour it triggers a variety of healing processes without overwhelming the body’s anti-oxidant system. The currently known mechanisms include a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, reduction of edema, increased blood perfusion, angiogenesis, stimulation of the immune system, stimulation of endogenous antioxidant systems, mobilization of stem cells from bone marrow, axonal regrowth, and modulation of the expression of thousands of genes involved in the inflammatory response and various healing responses.2,3

HBOT can bring about dramatic improvement in many neurological conditions for which we have had very little to offer other than palliative care. Considering the high incidence of many of these neurological conditions, the safety of treatment, and the simplicity and relatively low cost of mild-HBOT, it is unfortunate that it is not more widely available.1

Hyperbaric Centers of Florida is a premier hyperbaric treatment facility located in the Tampa Bay area. Their state-of-the-art hyperbaric clinic provides therapy to outpatients on a 7-day per week basis, closing only on major holidays.

Currently, There Are 15 FDA Approved HBOT Conditions:
• Air or Gas Embolism
• Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
• Compromised Skin Grafts or Flaps
• Crush Injury, Compartment Syndrome
Decompression Sickness (Bends)
• Diabetic & Other Non-healing Wounds
• Enhancement of Healing in Selected Problem
• Exceptional Anemia: Resulting of Bleeding
• Gas Gangrene
• Intracranial Abscess
• Osteomyelitis
• Radiation Injury
• Refractory Osteomyelitis
• Thermal Burns
• Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss

HBOT is used “off-label” for various disease states and disorders and HBOT may be ordered by a physician for off-label indications. Hyperbaric Centers of Florida makes no claims as to the efficacy for any indications other than the fifteen approved by FDA.

Common Off-Label Indications:
• Autism
• Brain Injury
• Bells Palsy
• Cerebral Palsy
• Cosmetic Surgery
• Infections
• Inflammations
• Lyme Disease
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Nerve Injuries
• Oral Disease
• Peripheral Neuropathy
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Scleroderma
• Shingles
• Severe Migraines
• Sports Injury
• Stroke
• Tendon Injuries
• Ulcerative Colitis
• Venomous snake and spider bites

1. Harch PG, Andrews SR, Fogarty EF, A phase I study of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy for blast-induced post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. J Neurotrauma. 2012;29:168-185.

2. Efrati S, Ben-Jacob E. How and why hyperbaric oxygen therapy can bring new hope for children suffering from cerebral palsy: an editorial perspective. Undersea Hyperbaric Med. 2014;41:71-74.

3. Harch, P. Hyperbaric oxygen in chronic traumatic brain injury: oxygen, pressure, and gene therapy. Med Gas Res. 2015;5:9.


To find out more, or to schedule your appointment today, please call Hyperbaric Centers of Florida at 813-788-3969.

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