Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments to Treat Autism?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment is one of those treatments that is used for more conditions than just autism. It’s also one of those treatments that any parent would question when they first heard about, leading to a need to research it and the claims. An article I wrote earlier this month covering MMS treatments for autism led to comments about hyperbaric oxygen treatments from a parent in an autism support group I co-run. I had to research these claims. To my own surprise, my research has now lead me to a place of interest- I want to know more.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments
Whenever a “normal” person has to focus on a completing a task there’s an upsurge in blood flow to the brain. The increase in the blood flow that’s seen supplies their brain with more oxygen and glucose which, in turn, gives their cells the energy that’s needed to accomplish their task. In children with autism, however, several studies have shown the contrary. Shockingly in a lot of cases they actually present with diminished blood flow. When autistic children’s brains are attempting to accomplish a task their blood flow doesn’t increase which deprives them of the oxygen and glucose needed for their cells. This lack of blood flow and glucose is a result of cerebral hypoxia resulting from hypoperfusion.

The difference in cerebral blood flow after HBOT... Photo Courtesy of autism-nutrition.com

According to a study releases in ScienceDigest by a Mr. Daniel A. Rossignol, "Numerous studies of autistic individuals have revealed evidence of cerebral hypoperfusion, neuroinflammation and gastrointestinal inflammation, immune dysregulation, oxidative stress, relative mitochondrial dysfunction, neurotransmitter abnormalities, impaired detoxification of toxins, dysbiosis, and impaired production of porphyrins. Many of these findings have been correlated with core autistic symptoms. For example, cerebral hypoperfusion in autistic children has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory and stereotypical behaviors, and impairments in communication, sensory perception, and social interaction.” This is where Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) comes in. While HBOT has only been used to treat autism for around 2 years it isn’t used just for autism.
Over the years doctors have started using HBOT for things such as: 
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Gangrene
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Closed Head Injury
  • Stroke
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Anemia
  • Injury from Crushing
  • Brain Abscesses
  • Skin Grafts and Flaps
  • Delayed Radiation Injury
  • Flesh-Eating Disease
  • Skin Infections that are causing Tissue to Die
  • Thermal Burns
  • Central Retinal Artery Occlusion
During the treatment the individual with autism lies down on a table in an “enclosed chamber” and breathes in 100% oxygen, subsequently the pressure in the “chamber” is slowly changed. The typical protocol for autism is to breathe the pure oxygen for about one hour. Pressure inside of the chamber is set at 1.3 to 1.5 ATA. These numbers compare to a depth of ten to seventeen feet of seawater.
When done in a hospital setting, properly, HBOT is considered to be safe; nonetheless many critics still advocate against using it for treatment of autism. However fires associated with HBOT have been known to have caused 80 deaths worldwide over the years, including a grandmother and her grandson who died whenever the chamber exploded in Florida in 2009.

An example of a HBOT chamber../Photo Courtesy of www.cacitches.com

The Parental Claims
The claims that parents make concerning their children being in HBOT are rather amazing, to say the least. Of course more studies need to be done to correlate the claims of these parents. It must be said that the studies currently available are quite remarkable though. There are claims of almost completely cured children to children that had unbelievable results within 20 hours of receiving their first treatments. Though I personally doubt the validity of these claims to their fullest the thought of them being accurate certainly induces hope.
Some of the Claims for using HBOT:
  • Improved Sleep
  • Calmer and More Affectionate Children
  • Improved Focus and Attention
  • Improved Bowel Function
  • Being More “Present”
  • Less Sensory Disturbance
  • Improved Cognition
  • Increased Speech
  • Improvements in Language
  • Improvements in Eye Contact
  • Improvements in Socialization
  • Increased Appetite
  • Improved Digestion

HOBT Side Effects and Precautions
As with almost any other therapy there are side effects associated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. These treatments mostly include things such as fatigue, ear pain, and/or lightheadedness after treatments. There are other, less common, side effects associated with HBOT.
Less Common Side Effects:
  • Damage to the Lungs
  • Rupturing of the Middle Ear
  • Damage to the Sinuses
  • Changes in Vision causing Myopia
  • Lung Failure
  • Fluid in the Lungs
  • Seizures
It’s important to also note that it’s recommended that you avoid having HBOT if you have a pacemaker, are pregnant, have certain lung diseases, take chemotherapy, or have a collapsed lung, have heart failure, a cold or fever, are claustrophobic, and if you take the drugs disulfiram or sulfamylon.

As a parent of a child with autism standing on the outside of this treatment looking in it seems quite risky. Quite risky but also quite interesting. If the claims of the parents are proven to be true over the next several years than I would be interested in possibly looking into the treatment for my son. Not at this time though. I don’t believe that-at this time-the proven positive results outweigh the possible negative consequences associated with this treatment. This is simply my opinion though. Over the next several years I do believe that scientist may be able to make more sound correlations between what can be proven by medical science and the claims of the parents who use this treatment on their own autistic children.

ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might improve certain pathophysiological findings in autism
ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve symptoms in autistic children