Hyperbaric Oxygen for Traumatic Brain Injuries

September 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Five million people in the United States have traumatic brain injuries -- injuries that are likely to have a significant impact on their quality of life and their future. There is no cure, but LSU researchers have found a treatment that could make a real difference. In fact, it's the same therapy used to treat people with diving injuries.August 2005, Brigadier General Patt Maney was driving through Afghanistan when a roadside bomb exploded right in front of him.

"Everything went bright red, then black and I had a sensation of flying up into the air," General Maney told Ivanhoe.

He survived, but his brain suffered a traumatic injury.

"I was having trouble articulating, finding words and articulating thoughts and symptoms even," General Maney said. "I knew I couldn't do things that used to be simple."

When no standard treatment could help, he agreed to try an experimental option -- hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Patients breathe pressurized pure oxygen in a sealed chamber. After 80 treatments over four months he saw a dramatic improvement.

"It has improved my cognition, my word finding, my balance," General Maney said. "I had tremendous balance problems, I'd just fall over."

Paul Harch, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, La., has studied the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on more than 500 patients -- even those with neurological conditions like Parkinson's. Over time, Dr. Harch says high doses of oxygen stimulate the brain to repair itself.

"And what we see is a general improvement in the majority of those functions, a return to pre-injury status. It turns their lives around," Dr. Harch told Ivanhoe.

Today, General Maney is retired, working as a judge in Florida, grateful for a life a bomb almost took away. He says he hopes hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used to treat some of the nearly 400,000 soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries. Because the procedure is still considered experimental, the $200 cost per treatment is not typically covered by insurance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Leslie Capo
lcapo@lsuhsc.edu
(504) 568-5806
www.harchhyperbarics.com
www.hbot.com


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