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Concussions – Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Help Heal the Brain?

A growing group of scientists and physicians are working to transform post-concussion treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy in both civilians and military populations.

A vast majority of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the United Stated are concussions. In a Harvard Medical School article, concussion is used to describe “an injury that results from a blow or other impact to the head.” The most common causes are falls, car and bicycle accidents and sports injuries. Symptoms develop because “a head impact that significantly jolts the brain can disrupt brain cell function.”

Considered a mild TBI or mTBI, concussions can vary in their severity and, in some people, cause adverse long-term effects.

Recent research has shown hyperbaric oxgyen therapy to be an effective adjunctive treatment for people with mTBI due to the biomechanics of hyperbaric oxygen creating pathways for oxygen (growth of new capillaries) to get to the areas of the body that need it the most for healing.

Just as hyperbaric works to heal other wounds in the body, the wounded brain benefits from the oxygen saturation delivered under pressure in a hyperbaric chamber. Delivering more oxygen to the brain helps it heal faster and alleviates symptoms (listed below) in both mTBI or chronic TBIs with unresolved long-lasting physical, cognitve and sensory effects.

According to a 2018 Washington Post article, people with mTBI typically get better within a few weeks, but for as many as 20 percent, problems can linger for months or years. Many mTBI patients suffer from depression, cognitive problems, headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms. Known as post-concussion syndrome, this phenomenon is often difficult to treat. Many medical professionals prescribe antidepressants, pain medications, biofeedback and physical therapy, but these treatment modalities don’t always result in healing and only treat the symptoms not the actual brain injury.

Enter hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a treatment that shows great promise to researchers and physicians, like HyOx’s Medical Director Dr. Richard W. King Jr., who are working to expand the healing power of 100 percent oxygen to mTBI and other conditions to help optimize outcomes in patients who show little to no improvement with traditional treatment methods.

“Since hyperbaric oxygen can help heal and return functionality to injured brain cells with increased oxygen delivery to the brain, we want to leverage our multi-patient hyperbaric chambers to treat more people who have reached a clinical dead-end,” said Dr. King, an Atlanta Magazine “Top Doc.” “The more clinical success we have with mTBI, the faster we can transform post-concussion protocols to include the sub-speciality of hyperbaric medicine.”

How it works

Supersaturating the body with 100 percent oxygen under pressure triggers healing of brain cells and powers genes designated for brain repair. Stem cells proliferate and are delivered to the brain injury site promoting the growth of new blood vessels to create pathways for the delivery of oxygen to reach the wounded area. Hyperbaric oxygen also boosts the activity of mitochondria that energize cells throughout the body helping brain cells to return to full functionality.

Treatment protocols for more serious chronic TBIs can range from 40-60 one-hour treatments. Most concussion injuries from sports or an accident can expect less than 10 treatments when treated immediately post-concussion.

For a hyperbaric medicine consultation for mTBI, including sports-related concussions, please contact HyOx.