The purpose of this blog is to summarize some really complex issues regarding hyperbaric therapy and autism. A link is attached below to a far more in-depth analysis of how oxygen therapy can benefit autistic children. Most points are taken from the article below.
There is a dramatic increase in reported autism spectrum disorders. There is a lot of research being done on hyperbaric therapy and autism and the results are really positive.
What we know so far about hyperbaric treatment:
– The treatment has been used for years to treat decompression sickness.
– Healing of problem areas such as skin flaps and diabetic wounds is accelerated.
– Oxygen levels can be brought back to normal in ischemic tissues.
With regard to brain issues, the following observations have been made:
– People with TBI – traumatic brain injuries – find significant benefits. Improvements in neurological markers, IQ, memory, post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, anxiety and general quality of life are all improved.
– Promising results have also been noticed in tests involving children who have had fetal alcohol syndrome.
– Studies done in young adults have found significant increases in memory retention, cognitive performance, word recall, reaction time, attention and picture recognition.
So, a look at Autism.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder where the person experiences communication difficulties, challenges in social interaction, restrictive and repetitive disorders. It affects just under 1% of the population.
It’s unclear where the disorder stems from. Genetic studies suggest that between 6 to 15% cases have a genetic link. That leaves most cases as having an unknown cause.
There are certain parallels between autism and certain other dysfunctions. These include cerebral hypoperfusion, immune dysregulation, inflammation, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Hyperbaric therapy can be seen as an important add-on to standard treatments. There are a number of reasons for this.
- Treatment of cerebral hypoperfusion.
Restricted blood flow to the brain means that the brain cannot satisfy all of its metabolic needs. A number of studies have shown that hyperbaric therapy can improve cerebral perfusion.
The blue and green areas indicate areas of hypoperfusion. A. being before treatment, B. being after. Tests indicate perfusion improvements of between 75 and 85% over various areas of the brain.
- Gastrointestinal Inflammation.
Autism in many cases goes together with elevated levels of gastrointestinal inflammation- 416 studies have shown a link between the two conditions. It is most often shown up by higher levels of cytokine, an inflammation marker. The following photo is of a 6 year old boy with autism. You can see the distended abdomen in the first picture and the same abdomen after a number of hyperbaric sessions.
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction.
Your mitochondria sit in each cell. They take in nutrients, break them down into usable parts and release energy to keep the cell going.
Some ADS patients exhibit mitochondrial dysfunction. Hyperbaric therapy has been shown to increase mitochondrial functions. Studies have also shown that the therapy helps the body destroy old and dysfunctional mitochondria and replace it with new and healthy mitochondria.
- Oxidative stress.
Over 115 studies have shown that children with ASD show evidence of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants. Hyperbaric therapy has been shown to increase the production of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, catalase etc.
So, in summary, numerous reports have shown significant improvements in children’s lives who have autism. In 2002, Heuser et al, reported a “striking improvement in behavior, memory, social interactions, verbalizations and cognitive functioning”.
Coloring book pages from 17 year old girl with autism: (a) before beginning HBOT at 1.5 atm/100% oxygen; (b) after one week of HBOT (5 sessions at one hour each), she is beginning to create patches of color to fill in a space; (c) after 3 weeks of HBOT (about 15 hours of HBOT), she uses correct colors for Winnie the Pooh and Eyore, and the foliage except for the tree trunk; and (d) after 5 weeks of HBOT (20 hours of HBOT), she begins to respect borders and boundaries and even outlines the inner border with color. After 6 months, her coloring abilities remained stable. Pictures courtesy of Carol L. Henricks, MD.
Numerous other reports have come out essentially saying the thing.
It is possible to place both a parent and child into our hyperbaric chamber at the same time, thereby reducing stress levels.
I really hope this has been helpful both in increasing knowledge regarding the benefits of hyperbaric therapy and certain brain conditions such as autism.
For more in-depth research, click here.
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This program is run by Brigette Roscoe – BSc (Hons) Nursing.