Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is making kids smile again
One doctor is using an unconventional therapy to help children with devastating injuries.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-known treatment for scuba divers who suffer from decompression sickness. However, very few medical professionals have used the therapy to treat other conditions, citing insufficient evidence that the therapy works.
But one Louisiana State University doctor says the treatment should be used more widely and has the cases to back it up.
Robert Boytim was a happy, active child who was full of life. But that all changed when he fell into a pond in his yard and nearly drowned.
“He was recovered from the pond by his sister," said William Boytim, Robert's father. "Between his sister, the police that came and EMS, they did CPR on him for about 45 minutes.”
They got Robert to the hospital, where he was resuscitated, but the prognosis was gloomy.
“We were sent home with a child we were told would never open his eyes, never speak, never react,” William Boytim said.
Then, there was Amy Grady, who had already signed the paperwork to donate her son Connor’s organs after he suffered neurologic injuries at birth and was given a grim prognosis.
“There was no other options for us," Amy said. "We went home with a baby who was going to die.”
Both families were getting ready for the worst outcome, but then they found Dr. Paul Harch, who specializes in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, which uses pure oxygen to promote healing.
“The injury process usually involves reduction in blood flow and oxygen,” Harch said.
The increase of oxygen during therapy helps carry that oxygen throughout the body, stimulating the release of growth factors. When Robert got to Harch his body "was bent completely backwards and his rear end was within 8 inches of the back of his head,” William Boytim said.
Two days after his first treatment, his bend was gone. Now further into his treatments, he’s eating, moving his arms and legs and laughing.
After Connor’s first treatment, Amy Grady said "he was kicking and playing on his mat. It honestly changes so much for me and hope and his potential outcome for his future life now.”
The treatment is giving both children something to smile about.
Both families had to wait months to get this treatment because their original hospitals did not offer it. In Robert’s case, his hospital did have hyperbaric oxygen therapy but refused to offer it due to protocol.
HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY MAKING KIDS SMILE
BACKGROUND: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first used in the U.S. in the early 20th century. The therapy was tried again in the 1940’s when the U.S. Navy used hyperbaric oxygen to treat deep-sea divers who had decompression sickness. By the 1960’s, the therapy was also used to combat carbon monoxide poisoning. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. It is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won't heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.
(Source: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/physical_medicine_and_rehabilitation/hyperbaric_oxygen_therapy_134,147; https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/about/pac-20394380)
WHAT HAPPENS DURING HBOT: Only a healthcare provider should prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy. A number of hospitals offer hyperbaric oxygen chambers. People relax, sit, or lie comfortably in these chambers and take deep breaths in sessions that last up to 2 hours. Your ears may feel plugged as the pressure is raised, like when you're in an airplane or the mountains. Simple swallowing or chewing gum will "pop" the ears back to normal hearing levels. Your blood carries the extra oxygen throughout the body, infusing the injured tissues that need more oxygen so they can begin healing. When a session is complete, you may feel lightheaded. Mild side effects include claustrophobia, fatigue, and headaches. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not for everyone. It should not be used by people who have had a recent ear surgery or ear trauma, a cold or fever, or certain types of lung disease. The most common complication after HBOT is trauma to the middle ear. Other possible complications are eye damage and sinus problems. In rare, severe cases, a person can get oxygen poisoning. This can lead to seizures, fluid in the lungs, lung failure, or other problems.
NEW STUDIES IN HBOT THERAPY: Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia in the elderly, accounts for 60 to 80% of all dementia cases. However, there is presently no cure for this disease and no effective treatment that would slow disease progression despite billions of dollars invested in drug development. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to improve neurological functions and life-quality following neurological incidents such as stroke and traumatic brain injury, and to improve performance of healthy subjects in multi-tasking. This and additional studies have shown that cerebral ischemia is a common denominator in many of the pathological pathways and suggests that oxygen is an important tool in the arsenal for our fight against Alzheimer’s. Given that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used in clinics to treat various neurological conditions, it is suggested that this approach presents a new platform for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.