Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and Cerebral Palsy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a form of therapy that uses a high partial pressure of oxygen to speed up and enhance the body’s natural ability to heal. Because children with cerebral palsy suffer from cell damage in the central nervous system, HBOT may theoretically help these children by enhancing brain tissue growth. While HBOT is a treatment that falls outside the realm of “mainstream medicine,” it is approved by the American Medical Association, FDA, and Medicare. Its results are variable.

How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Work?

The body’s tissues rely on oxygen in the bloodstream to function. When a specific area of tissue is injured or diminished, it requires even more oxygen to properly begin and progress through the healing process. During a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session, an individual breathes in 100% oxygen, thereby raising the normal concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream by up to 2000%. This oxygen-rich blood then disperses throughout the body to promote tissue function, increase healing, and fight tissue infection.

What Does The Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Process Entail?

During the hyperbaric oxygen therapy process, an individual will be required to breathe in 100% oxygen under specific pressure conditions to ensure the most thorough results. Depending on the patient and the HBOT provider, the therapy can be administered in two different ways:

  1. In a 1-Person Setting: In this case, and individual will receive the therapy in a single unit. This usually involves lying back on a table or other flat surface that is attached to a plastic “tube-like” environment, in which the pressure and oxygen levels are secure.
  2. In a Group Setting: In a group-setting, individuals will be placed in a room where they can either sit or lie on hospital beds. Depending again on the administrator and the patient, oxygen can be received either by a mask, or through a plastic hood placed over the head.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a long-term therapeutic process. Traditionally, the therapy is administered in roughly 40 different sessions. These sessions are given serially, in relatively close proximity to one another. Usually the entirety of the HBOT process can be completed in about one month.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) and Cerebral Palsy

Individuals with cerebral palsy have damage to crucial parts of their brain matter, often due to oxygen deprivation or trauma at or around the time of birth. HBOT therapy is thought to stimulate these damaged tissues, giving the brain a sort of “jump-start,” by providing the oxygen needed for proper function. Theoretically, HBOT will create an ideal, well-oxygenated environment as the brain grows.

The Benefits and Risks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

There is no true scientific data to support HBOT as an effective therapy for children with cerebral palsy; however, there are several cases in which this procedure has been reported to be successful. Some reported benefits of HBOT as cerebral palsy treatment include:

  • Improved gross motor function
  • Improved fine motor skills
  • Reduced spasticity

Conversely, however, there are several reported risks of this procedure, and its effectiveness has been called into question. Some cited downsides of HBOT include:

  • Ear problems
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lung problems (caused by pressure changes)

The reports on the benefits and risks of HBOT as an effective treatment for cerebral palsy are definitely mixed. While some individuals seem to receive worthwhile benefits, there are others who have experienced negative outcomes.

This article is solely intended to provide information about the HBOT procedure, and should not be interpreted as medical advice. For information about HBOT please speak with a licensed care provider.

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