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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Showing Promise in Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

May 26th, 2022

For many years, the primary treatment for many traumatic brain injuries (TBI) has been palliative care—that is, minimizing suffering and improving quality of life without actually curing the issue or reducing the symptoms. However, a treatment known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (or HBO) is showing great promise in helping TBI patients recover brain function both in the short and the long term.

HBO therapy is not a new treatment. In fact, the FDA has approved its use in treating more than a dozen ailments. This includes decompression illness (in divers), gas gangrene, and even diabetic ulcers. It’s only been in recent years that physicians have noted remarkable results in patients suffering from various neurological conditions, including TBI.

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

In short, HBO therapy is the administration of pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. In a hyperbaric chamber, the air pressure is increased to two to three times that of normal atmospheric pressure with an oxygen consistency of 100 percent. This causes the lungs to take in more oxygen with each breath. It can then be delivered quickly via the bloodstream to injured tissues and organs and promote faster healing and rejuvenation.

How Does HBO Therapy Help TBI?

The reasons why HBO therapy is so beneficial in treating certain types of TBI are still being studied. However, the primary factor is the hyper-delivery of oxygen to the brain. Much of the damage to brain cells in a traumatic injury comes from depriving the cells of needed oxygen—and conversely, increasing oxygen helps them. It is widely believed that increased oxygen saturation may help to protect brain cells from further damage. It can even promote cell growth and regeneration. In addition, HBO therapy can help to reduce inflammation and edema (swelling) in the brain.

Another promising development is that HBO therapy may benefit patients not just immediately following a TBI, but even months or years after the injury occurs. This idea has implications for the previously-held belief in the medical community that any TBI symptoms lasting longer than 6 months indicate permanent brain damage.

Covering the Cost of HBO Therapy

At the time of this writing, the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for TBI is an “off-label” treatment offered by some doctors. This means the FDA has not yet approved the use of HBO for brain injuries. Therefore, insurance does not cover the cost. However, the scientific data in favor of using HBO treatments continues to grow. Have you have suffered a TBI in an accident where someone else was at fault? A good personal injury attorney can often negotiate the costs of HBO therapy into your personal injury claim. This is because it may offset any possible costs of care in the long term. Call our law offices today for a free review of your case.