Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Brain Damage Reversed By Oxygen Therapy

Brain injuries are currently notoriously difficult to treat, and so usually result in death or permanent disability. Fortunately now, researchers and clinicians are looking into regenerative therapies, such as the BioQuark team who are soon to publish their initial results on reversing brain death with a stem cell-based treatment. Another essentially natural therapy that shows potential in reversing brain damage is oxygen therapy, which managed to save an American toddler from a life of severe disability.

Oxygen therapy could mean freedom for many with brain injury.
Source: Shahriar Sovon.
Eden Carlson, a two-year-old girl whose heart did not beat for two hours after drowning, showed deep injury to the grey matter of her brain, and cerebral atrophy involving both the grey and white matter. She could no longer speak, walk or respond to others talking, but would uncontrollably shake her head and squirm around. In what could be described as a miracle, a course of oxygen treatments was able to reverse the vast majority of this damage. While her very young age and early intervention played a role in her recovery, this may pave the way to a better life for so many others. The extent of her injuries inspired one of her doctors to give her hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). HBOT delivers oxygen to a patient at a higher than atmospheric pressure, through a sealed and pressurised chamber. This is aimed at increasing tissue repair beyond what would occur normally. As HBOT was unavailable at the time, doctors gave her oxygen therapy at air pressure for 45 minutes, twice a day, starting at 55 days after her accident. After three weeks, Eden became more alert, squirmed less and had more movement in her arms and hands. She was able to laugh, speak short sequences and regained some ability to eat normally. Then, she relocated to New Orleans, where she could receive hyperbaric oxygen. After only ten treatments, her mother saw that she was back to "near normal, except gross motor function", so she began physical therapy alongside HBOT. After 39 treatments, her walking improved, her speech was even better than before the accident, and overall she showed near normal motor function, cognition and scan results. The team studying Eden say that they have never seen any therapy reverse brain damage in this manner before. They don't fully understand it either, but it is clear that oxygen therapy can fight inflammation and boost cellular survival and repair.

This, however, is not the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to promote healing in brain injury. Multiple studies have found improved survival and clinical outcomes, with the earliest dating back to the 1960s. Unfortunately delayed treatment, subjective assessment and inappropriate paradigms are preventing oxygen from becoming a mainstream therapy, but hopefully the case of Eden will trigger more demand for it.

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