Study Shows Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy May Help in Brain Injury


According to a new study, people suffering from brain injury after stroke may benefit from HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy). This therapy is given to scuba divers when suffering from “the bends”.

This therapy is a new method for the treatment of brain damage that may help patients who suffer from brain injury after stroke or any other kind of trauma.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel, employed HBOT in 74 patients who had suffered stroke, and whose conditions didn’t show improvement any longer for six months to three years after the stroke. HBOT is carried out inside an oxygen chamber in which the pressure is very high. The therapy heightens the level of oxygen in the body about tenfold. Shai Efrati, MD at Tel Aviv University, led the study. It was hypothesized by the researchers that such increased levels of oxygen may revive the inactive nerve cells in the post-stroke patients’ brains.

The therapy seemed to help. After conducting hyperbaric oxygen therapy for two months, increased activity was seen in the brain images in case of the treatment group in comparison with the non-treatment, control group. Visible improvements were also shown by the patients, like renewed use of language, enhanced sensation, and paralysis reversal.

The findings of the study were published in PLOS ONE. The findings indicate that HBOT is a viable option for treatment of post-stroke patients, even for patients in case of whom it may appear that it’s too late for any additional treatment. No participants were included in the study in case of whom three years had passed after the stroke, however, researchers believe that similar results would be seen for patients in case of whom stroke had taken place far earlier.

The study findings pose a challenge for the prominent paradigm, as they show that it is possible to activate neuroplasticity for years and months post severe brain injury, hence showing that the brain’s various aspects remain plastic in adulthood, stated Eshel Ben-Jacob, Tel Aviv University’s professor, one of the people working in the study. He said this in one of the university’s releases.

Hyperbaric therapy seems to help in restoring brain activity by offering a significant energy boost to the brain cells. The brain obviously receives oxygen through normal breathing, however, that oxygen is not sufficient for repairing brain damage. HBOT offers about 10 times the normal oxygen amount, which enables the brain cells move to high-gear, as said by Dr. Efrati. This rebuilds the brain connections and stimulates the inactive neurons.

Currently, Efrati and team are testing HBOT on patients affected by traumatic brain injury. The therapy might also prove to be beneficial in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at the early-stage. Moreover, a study done in 2012 discovered that HBOT is helpful in slowing type 1 diabetes progression in mice.

Efrati outlined in the release of Tel Aviv University: “It is now understood that many brain disorders are related to inefficient energy supply to the brain,”. “[Hyperbaric oxygen therapy] could right such metabolic abnormalities before the onset of full dementia, where there is still potential for recovery.”


Efrati, S., Fishlev, G., Bechor, Y., Volkov, O., Bergan, J., Kliakhandler, K., Kamiager, I., Gal, N., Friedman, M., Ben-Jacob, E., & Golan, H. (2013). Hyperbaric Oxygen Induces Late Neuroplasticity in Post Stroke Patients – Randomized, Prospective Trial PLoS ONE, 8 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053716

Image via pedalist / Shutterstock.

Chloe Paltrow, MD

Chloe Paltrow, MD, is a psychiatrist with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a researcher in the field of neurology. Dr. Paltrow sees patients with different neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. She has shared her knowledge in various websites and blogs like Collective Evolution, PsychCentral, NaturalNews Blogs and Pick The Brain. Currently, she is studying how brain injury and brain disorders can be treated with hyperbaric chambers, of which OxyHealth is a leading provider.
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