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Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Effective in Treating Chronic-Stage Stroke?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy . 

Every year, across the globe, many people experience a stroke. It is a common cause of death and disability, appearing on the second number for death and third for disability (and death). Considering the situation, many scientists are researching different therapies to treat a stroke, but still, most of the victims of stroke experience disability or chronic dysfunction. Doctors suggest physical and psychological therapy that helps reduce symptoms and gain normal life.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment that helps reduce stroke symptoms in chronic stroke patients. The therapy increases pressure, which improves oxygen concentration in the blood. As a result, oxygen delivery throughout the body enhances, improving metabolism, cell regeneration, cell recovery, etc.

When a person experiences a stroke, they experience cell death in the brain, and cells surrounding the area are also injured, which means penumbra. With HBOT, our body oxygenates, and the penumbra starts healing. Cell metabolism in injured cells improves, inflammation subsides, and mitochondrial function enhances.

In addition to this, our body tends to trigger a series of processes during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This includes repair of neurons, creation of new neurons, blood vessel generation, stem cell proliferation, and other processes reducing symptoms of a stroke.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment that provides pure oxygen to a patient in a pressurized chamber. The patient sits in the chamber and inhales 100% oxygen. The reason behind increasing pressure is to allow the body to absorb more oxygen. At high pressure, bodily liquids like lipids and plasma start carrying oxygen.

With appropriate oxygen, many processes trigger in the body as discussed above. For example, oxygen stimulates enzymes that reduce oxidative stress and treats inflammation.

Especially in the case of stroke, patients experience inflammation and cell injury around the affected area. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows delivering oxygen to diseased and injured sites, which ensures quick healing.

HBOT for Chronic-Stage Stroke

In an Efrati et al trial, it was revealed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy drastically improves symptoms of stroke patients in chronic stages. This involves both physiological and neurological deficits, including quality of life, cognitive functions, and daily activities.

In another trial by Boussi-Gross et al, data from 90 patients were analyzed. This study found that HBOT can help in the improvement of neurocognitive functions of the brain in stroke patients.

Only recently, another scientist conducted a review on 162 patients who experienced a stroke. Before the study, he believed that nerve fiber couldn’t be recreated. But, with HBOT, both grey and white microstructures indicated nerve fiber regeneration.

With these three examples, we can conclude that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has made some progress in the field. However, for a candidate to be considered for the trial or treatment, they should qualify for some basic evaluation, emotional, physical, and cognitive. For every patient, metabolic and anatomical imaging is obtained. Treatment is offered to patients with metabolic defects, which means a mismatch in anatomical and functional findings.

Patients who are eligible for the treatment receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy at 2.0 ATA. They breathe pure oxygen for five days till 60-day treatment is concluded. With this treatment, the emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being of the patient is considered. Therefore, assistive therapies are also offered to receive better quality of life scores.

Case Study

In the particular case of Mr. Jones, hyperbaric oxygen therapy proved beneficial. The patient experienced an ischaemic stroke that led to hemiparesis in the left side of the brain. As a result, his wife had to assist him in every activity. This involved daily activities, eating, standing, bathing, etc. His only mode of mobilization was through his wheelchair.

When Mr. Jones was considered for the therapy, he went through a full assessment, involving physical, emotional, and cognitive imaging. In the assessment, the patient was only able to walk for 30 feet in a time of 1.37 minutes. He wished to regain his walking ability and independence.

For this, Mr. Jones received hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions, around 60 for 12 weeks. With this, the doctor paired other therapies, such as occupational therapy, concomitant physical therapy, neuropsychological training, and dietician-based coaching.

Once the treatment concluded, his SPECT scans were taken, which revealed a 20% improvement in his condition. The penumbra improved and so did his ability to walk. He had better markers for executive function, memory, and attention. He was able to walk without any help for around 86 feet in a time of 2 minutes. Ideally, Mr. Jones gained his walking ability and independence, which means he did not need anyone to hold or assist him in daily activities.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps improve oxygen concentration in the blood, which becomes the source of many healing processes. This allows for reducing inflammation, triggers stem cell regeneration, and eliminates oxidative stress in the body. Our brain and body thrive with a proper oxygen supply.

Fortunately, HBOT therapy is a non-invasive treatment without any major side effects. The patient may only experience a little discomfort in the ear.

However, for a beneficial treatment plan, sit with your doctor and create a strategy for receiving HBOT along with other assistive therapies.

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