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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Special Focus

Published on December 1st, 2010 by Dr. Jennifer Nardella and Dr. Meghan Haggarty

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric medicine is the administration of 100% oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to increase oxygen delivery to various tissues in the body. It’s history dates back as early as the 1600’s. Early success with hyperbaric oxygen therapy was focused on treating decompression sickness. It wasn’t until the mid-1950’s that notable success in treating infection was scientifically established. Later in the 1970’s hyperbaric medicine began its most wide spread use in the healing of problem wounds. Currently, development in the field is advancing at a rapid pace due to new research that is showing a large number of conditions that may benefit from HBOT. The naturopathic doctors at our clinic are at the forefront or providing this therapy for these additional conditions. Treatment at our clinic takes place in a clear, acrylic, monoplace chamber. The chamber system used at our facility provides for a comfortable, safe, and effective treatment for our patients. Hyperbaric oxygen is a painless procedure during which the chamber is filled with 100% oxygen and the chamber is pressurized. Patients may experience a “popping” of the ears during the treatment similar to flying in an airplane.

How Does it Work?

The breathing of 100% oxygen alone will saturate the haemoglobin. However, pressure is required for oxygen to be absorbed into the plasma. This increases the amount of oxygen available to various parts of the body.

How Many Treatments?

Patients receive between 20-60 treatments depending on the condition being treated. Treatments are usually an hour in duration. Patients must be able to commit to coming daily Monday-Friday during the course of the treatment. For some conditions extra rounds of treatments may be indicated to continue to benefit and see improvements from the treatment.

Increased oxygen has many physical effects including:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Formation of new blood vessels
  • Increased fibroblastic activity
  • Reduces edema
  • Modifies growth factors and cytokines
  • Promotes cellular proliferation
  • Accelerates collagen deposition

Do I Need a Referral?

No referral is required to receive hyberbaric oxygen at our clinic. However, all patients interested in hyperbaric oxygen therapy must schedule a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors to ensure that hyperbaric oxygen is a safe and appropriate treatment. Examples of conditions being actively treated are listed below. This list is not exhaustive of the applications of hyperbaric medicine. Patients should inquire to the clinic directly regarding the appropriateness of hyberaric oxygen therapy in treating a health issue. The Clinic website will continue to be updated with new information.

Anti-Aging

Hyperbaric oxygen can play many roles in anti-aging and decreasing disease associated with growing older. The goal of hyperbaric oxygen as a form of anti-aging medicine focuses on preventing diseases such as dementia, heart disease and arthritis and improving overall quality of life as people age. Hyperbaric oxygen helps to maintain optimal brain function and mental capacity. As a person’s age increases, the amount of oxygen in the arterial blood decreases. Increasing oxygen in the blood increases the level of oxygen in the areas of the brain that may have impaired blood flow. The anti-inflammatory action of hyperbaric oxygen therapy also plays an important role in decreasing the risk of developing chronic and potentially debilitating diseases such as heart disease and arthritis.

Autism

Autism is a neurological dysfunction that usually appears in the first 3 years of life and for which causality is currently unknown. It falls under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorder. It is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication as a result of poor synaptic organization in the brain. Autistic traits persist into adulthood. In autistic patients, hyperbaric oxygen therapy limits inflammation by reducing inflammatory markers and also improves brain blood flow to areas dealing with brain functions such as language comprehension, auditory processing, sensory perception, and social interaction. Children have shown improvements in exhibiting receptive manner, internalization of emotions, less tantrums, schoolwork, focus, and willingness to work. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is most effective when done as part of a naturopathic, biomedical protocol.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a “catch-all” term used to describe a variety of chronic conditions that affect the movement and coordination of the body as a result of lesions or anomalies to the brain. Brain damage could potentially occur in utero, during the perinatal period, or postnatally. Hyperbarics could conceivably increase awareness and attention with respect to memory, comprehension, reasoning, and visual perception in afflicted patients by reviving dormant brain tissue via plasma transported oxygen. Anecdotal reports also indicate decreased spasticity, improved motor control and reduced frequency of seizure activity. In addition, hyperbarics is known to decrease cerebral edema and restores the integrity of the blood brain barrier by decreasing its’ permeability.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic disorder resulting in the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly affecting the small intestine. It is believed that in people with Crohn’s, the immune system launches an attack on itself causing inflammation and ultimately ulcerations within the gastrointestinal tract. The antimicrobial system in our bodies does not exist in hypoxic environments. One of the main functions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are increasing (phagocytic) cell killing through oxygen bursts helping rid the body of pathogenic bacteria. Wound healing can be facilitated with hyperbarics by increasing fibroblast replication and collagen production, reducing tissue edema and inducing capillary angiogenesis. For patients with Crohn’s involving the perianal region, documented evidence exists for the complete healing of infiltration as early as after one course of treatment (20 sessions).

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a multi-system disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried by Deer ticks. Borrelia can cause fatigue, memory loss, swollen glands, fever, joint paint, and sleep problems amongst many other health issues. Due to the wide range of symptoms, Lyme disease mimics many other illnesses including lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, MS and Bells palsy. Treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotic therapy immediately after a person is bitten by an infected tick. However, many people have no recollection of being bit and the disease may progress to chronic Lyme disease. Research shows that Borrelia cannot survive in a high oxygen environment and that patients with chronic Lyme disease benefit significantly from the addition of hyperbaric oxygen to their treatment regime. Symptom improvement includes decreased pain, increased mental clarity and a decrease in the number of antibiotics needed and length of time antibiotic therapy may be necessary. Hyberbaric oxygen has an antimicrobial effect that kills the bacteria and also supports the patient’s immune system, decreases inflammation, and research suggests it can increase the efficacy of antibiotic therapies being used. Patients often develop a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction during the course of the treatment.This reaction is also experienced with antibiotic therapy and is a result of the bacteria dying off.

Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury

Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury can result in irreversible damage to the brain. This injury can result in long-term disability including severe language and motor impairment. Although the damaged cells are dead and cannot be repaired, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to increase oxygen to surrounding dormant areas—the penumbra. This can result in increased function and symptom resolution. Hyperbaric oxygen allows for increased blood flow, tissue oxygenation and decreased swelling in these areas of the brain. Hyperbaric oxygen also creates new blood vessels to damaged areas. Research has shown improvement when hyperbaric oxygen is used both immediately after a brain injury and up to decades after.

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