Hyperbaric oxygen for traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome

Inhalation of pure oxygen under high flow is an effective treatment for an acute cluster headache, although not migraines. Headache is one of the most common symptoms of traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome and there is evidence that oxygen under pressure can help those conditions.

A review article on the use of oxygen to treat mild and moderate traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome was recently published in Neurology. THe authors reviewed 5 previously published studies and concluded that hyperbaric oxygen in fact does help patients with brain trauma and postconcussion syndrome.

While cluster headache patients can breathe in oxygen through a mask from a tank of oxygen delivered to their home, hyperbaric oxygen requires a special room or a chamber. Hyperbaric means that oxygen is under increased pressure, although the authors report that moderate pressure (between 1 and 2 ATA) may be better than high pressure. Even hyperbaric air, that is normal air under pressure, may have beneficial effects.

The authors conclude that, there is sufficient evidence for the safety and preliminary efficacy from clinical data to support the use of hyperbaric oxygen in mild to moderate traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome. They also state that β€œIt would be a great loss to clinical medicine to ignore the large body of evidence collected so far that consistently concludes that hyperbaric oxygen is effective in treatment of brain injuries.”

Fortunately, there are many hospitals and private clinics all around the country that offer hyperbaric oxygen. They often advertise its use for a variety of unproven indications, but if you suffer from a traumatic brain injury, this treatment may be worth trying. A major obstacle though could be the cost of treatment since insurance companies are not likely to cover this treatment.

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