HBOT and Stroke Recovery
In order to understand how and why hyperbaric oxygen (oxygen under pressure) can help a patient recovering from a stroke it helps to first understand how hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) works. If you have not read the blog post titled “HBOT: How Does It Work?” please refer to that before you continue on.
The damage caused by stroke typically impacts several zones of the brain: The initial zone where the actual hemorrhage or ischemia occurred and then a zone surrounding that area that will typically become dormant or inactive. This secondary zone is affected primarily due to a loss of blood flow and therefore loss of oxygen to the tissue in question.
This dormant tissue results from a combination of blood vessel damage, decreased blood flow and surrounding inflammation depriving the brain of enough oxygen to complete its typical functions. Without the ability to nourish it with oxygen and remove cellular waste (carbon dioxide) this are of brain tissue needs to effectively shut down.
At the initial onset of a stroke, the goal is to improve blood flow, unblock any occlusions, stop any excess bleeding and return cerebral blood flow to as close to normal as quickly as possible to minimize the size of these zones and therefore the damage done by the stroke itself. Unfortunately for most stroke patients, once the initial crisis is under control, the only modality offered is physical rehabilitation (physical and/or occupational therapy) to try recovering as much function as possible but not much more is offered and little or nothing done to help the actual brain itself to heal.
This is where HBOT can step in. Oxygen under pressure has the ability to super saturate the damaged tissue with oxygen. The reason again for some of the damage and most of the dormant portion of brain tissue post stroke is loss of oxygen. If we can continue to help reduce the amount of swelling, and then provide very high levels of oxygen, enough to provide not only what is needed for normal function, but more importantly higher levels, enough to help promote healing, we can shrink the size of these damaged zones. How far can we shrink them? What symptoms are going to get better and in what order will they improve? We really do not know that answers to those questions. All we know is that if you can expose these patients to higher levels of oxygen, they can heal. As they heal, they will see an improvement in their symptoms and improvement in their overall ability to function and have an improved quality of life. Ease of movement, less spasm, improved cognition, improved vision, improved speaking ability, improved memory are all common improvements seen using Hyperbaric oxygen post stroke.
HBOT and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, which is borrelia burgdorferi bacteria transmitted to humans through a tick bite, can have massive and debilitating effects. Some of these include fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, meningitis, migraines, among many others.
Unfortunately, the traditional treatments for Lyme are limited to basic antibiotic therapy. If caught quickly this is sometimes enough to recover, but often it is not enough. These infections are very strong and often prove resistant to many traditional therapies. Also, most often Lyme is not alone, since there are a multitude of coinfections that exist along with Lyme. A multi-therapeutic approach is needed to treat these infections. Addressing this condition from multiple angles is paramount to successfully healing.
One of the prongs on this multi-therapeutic approach should Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT has the capacity to play a major role in healing from Lyme for a few reasons:
Lyme disease is in a classification of bacteria called anaerobes, meaning these bacteria thrive in very low oxygen environments. HBOT, being a very high oxygen environment, has the ability to aid in the killing of the bacteria.
Lyme causes a great deal of inflammation throughout the body affecting joints, muscles and the nervous system. One of the primary uses of HBOT in general is to help manage inflammation. The more oxygen our body can absorb, the more inflammation we can process and move out of our body.
Oxygen is a major nutrient our body needs to heal from damage. As a result of the infection and associated inflammation, damage can be extensive. HBOT provides exceptionally high amounts of oxygen that the body can use to heal the brain, nerves, muscles and joints.
The use of HBOT as part of the multi-therapeutic approach for Lyme is growing rapidly. Lyme experts are coming to see the obvious benefits of including HBOT as part of their patients’ recovery from this debilitating disease. For more info please read a case study below.
In April 2003, our patient was a 31-year-old healthy man who worked in the financial industry and lived in Taipei City, who began suffering from intermittent low- and high-grade fever. These symptoms were accompanied by fatigue and multiple bone pain, especially in the sternum, ribs, and lower back, which made it difficult for the patient to walk. Since that time, the patient had only received symptomatic medications such as painkillers. In January 2004, some erythema migrans lesions were found over the patient’s legs. In addition, he suffered from joint pain in both knees, the shoulders, and temporomandibular joints. Tracing back the patient’s history 2 years prior to clinical presentation, it was noted that he was a frequent hiker in the Yang-Ming Mountains in Taipei, Taiwan, where he often sat on the grass and had contact with wild cattle. He had previously visited infection and dermatology clinics, where his Borrelia serology IgG was positive, and Lyme disease was strongly suspected. Soon thereafter, 500 mg amoxicillin twice daily was prescribed for 1 month, which caused the patient’s symptoms to subside partially. However, in the next 3 years, he was bothered by symptoms including: (1) nervous system, comprised of irritability, mood swings, poor concentration, loss of short-term memory, sleep disturbance, facial tingling, blurred vision, and photophobia; (2) cardiovascular system, consisting of chest pains and palpitations; (3) musculoskeletal system, associated with migrating arthralgias; and (4) other problems, including headache and pelvic pain.
In 2007, the patient again visited another infection clinic, where he received antibiotic agents such as doxycycline, amoxicillin 250 mg + clavulanic acid 125 mg (Augmentin), parenteral penicillin, and oral cefuroxime over the following 4 years. Because the above symptoms had not improved significantly, in October 2011 the patient visited us for HBOT. Before HBOT, some residual symptoms such as elbow and joint pain, numbness of the extremities, perioribital twitch, sleep disorder, and affected thinking ability persisted. After we excluded other infectious and noninfectious etiologies that can mimic certain appearances of the typical multisystem illness seen in CLD, HBOT at 2.5 ATA with treatment duration of 1.5 hours for 30 sessions was given. In the first 10 sessions of HBOT, nervous-system-associated symptoms such as loss of thinking ability and sleep disorder disappeared. In the second 10 sessions of HBOT, additional nervous system symptoms such as numbness of the extremities and perioribital twitch also disappeared. In the third 10 sessions of HBOT, musculoskeletal system symptoms such as migrating arthralgia also vanished. Overall, completion of 30 sessions of HBOT caused noted longstanding Lyme-disease-related symptoms affecting most of the previously affected bodily areas to disappear.
HBOT: How Does It Work?
Everyone knows we need oxygen for our survival. It is a critical nutrient for our cells in order to function and produce energy.
So what is the difference between the air you and I we breathe, using medical grade green tank oxygen and using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)?
The air we breathe is 21% oxygen. The rest is primarily Nitrogen. As we breathe air in, our body is able to take the oxygen (our body’s fuel source) from the air, dissolve it through our lungs and then carry it though our whole circulatory system (using red blood cells) to oxygenate every single cell we have (about 10 trillion). Once the oxygen has left the red blood cells, they picks up carbon dioxide (our cells waste product) and carries that back to our lungs for removal during an exhale. It’s a pretty amazing process actually!
If you have ever been in the hospital or perhaps at your annual physical, the doctor has put that little instrument on your finger that measures your pulse and oxygen saturation. If you are relatively healthy – especially without lung or other breathing issues (COPD) – you would be about 98-100% saturated with oxygen. This means your red blood cells are currently maxed out and carrying as much oxygen as they possibly can. If there is some type of lung condition, that number will drop into the low 90s and possibly into the 80s. This would mean the lungs were not pulling enough oxygen out of the air in order to fill those red blood cells with oxygen. In those cases, medical grade green tank oxygen can be a miracle. Now instead of breathing 21% oxygen from the air, we can breathe 100% oxygen from a tank (or oxygen concentrator machine) and increase how much oxygen we can use to fill those red blood cells. In many cases, this is sufficient enough to help many COPD-type patients.
Becoming more than 100% Saturated
In certain cases, a patient may already be 100% saturated with oxygen (because there is NO pulmonary/lung disease), but one of the following conditions is present:
There is a blockage somewhere preventing the oxygen from getting where it needs it to go (TBI, neuropathy, stroke, trauma, excessive swelling). These patients cannot bring anymore oxygen in (they are 100% saturated, but, they cannot get oxygen to the area in need due to some other issue,trauma or condition.
These patients really need a much higher amount of free floating oxygen (more than 100% saturation) in order to help heal from a certain condition (fibromyalgia, dementia, Lyme, CP, MS, ALS, etc ). If the body had access to this “extra” oxygen, it would have more of what it needs to further promote healing and reduce inflammation and toxicity.
In these cases, HBOT is the necessary tool to administer the proper type and amount of oxygen. Simply put, HBOT does not rely on the red blood cell system carrying oxygen for the body. It will fill those cells, but even more, due to the pressure inside the chamber, it will dissolve “extra” oxygen into the plasma of the blood and directly into our tissues. In this case, we are able to effectively be 110-140% saturated, delivering 10-40% more oxygen to tissues that have literally been starving for more oxygen.
Most importantly it meets my standard of “safety to effectiveness” ratio. HBOT is one of the safest healthcare modalities that exists and yet is enormously effective in helping to heal from a large variety of conditions. Risk to benefit ratio is very clearly high benefit, low risk! It is a shame that HBOT is not on the front line of therapies for some of the above conditions.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide variety of treatments usually as a part of an overall medical care plan.
Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells. With HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, the plasma, the central nervous system fluids, the lymph, and the bone and can be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked. In this way, extra oxygen can reach all of the damaged tissues and the body can support its own healing process. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas. It is a simple, non-invasive and painless treatment.
It has long been known that healing many areas of the body cannot take place without appropriate oxygen levels in the tissue. Most illnesses and injuries occur, and often linger, at the cellular or tissue level. In many cases, such as: circulatory problems; non-healing wounds; and strokes, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and the body’s natural healing ability is unable to function properly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves the quality of life of the patient in many areas when standard medicine is not working. Many conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, head injuries, and chronic fatigue have responded favorably to HBOT.
We know that oxygen is essential to normal cellular physiology. Cancer cells have an altered metabolism and no longer depend upon oxygen. In fact, high oxygenated environments are toxic to cancer cells and both slows their growth and triggers cell death mechanisms within them. Is there a way to increase oxygen in the body to support healthy cell function while being a detriment to cancer cell function?
Our bodies rely on the constant supply of oxygen intake to survive. Our atmosphere is approximately 21% oxygen. This element is required by every cell in the human body to produce cellular energy via the mitochondria. High flow oxygen therapy can deliver 100% oxygen in a pressurized atmosphere and results in extraordinary healing benefits.
When oxygen is administered at high pressure rates, up to 20 times more oxygen can be absorbed by the bloodstream. This oxygen is transported to damaged organs and tissue which speeds up both healing and recovery time. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers pure oxygen up to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Sessions typically ranges from 30 to 90 minutes.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) refers to breathing in conditions of 100% pure oxygen under high pressure. This process encourages oxygen to be quickly absorbed and dissolved into the bloodstream at an expedited rate. Infection can slow healing because the blood supply to the affected site is damaged. HBOT increases the oxygen supply to these damaged tissues.
This form of hyperbaric therapy which utilizes 100% of oxygen requires a prescription under FDA guidelines due to its classification as a drug. Mild hyperbaric therapy or mHBOT has also shown significant health benefits and administers 95% oxygen in a small range of 1.3 to 1.4 atmospheric pressure. Requiring no doctor’s prescription, providing incredible health benefits and a process that has minimal to zero risks, mHBOT is a much more affordable treatment option.
Systems range in cost from as low as $5 to $25,000. You can also get treatments at around $50 to $100 a session. HBOT that provide more than 1.5 times the atmospheric pressure and administers 100% oxygen are about $200 per treatment session.
Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
HBOT can benefit any patient who is healing from a condition triggered by inflammation in the body. The healing process can be improved using HBOT to deliver a higher rate of oxygen to damaged tissue. In fact, oxygen controls more than 8,000 genes and is one of the most natural forms of antibiotics. Twenty sessions of therapy improves the function of stem cells by eightfold.
HBOT has also been shown to help with the following:
- Stimulates new blood vessel growth and increase blood flow
- Elevates the body’s natural immune defenses to fight infection and bacteria
- Reduces swelling that may occur around damaged areas
- Speeds up healing by increasing tissue oxygen levels to areas in the body where they are reduced due to injury or illness
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