Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Posted On Thursday, 01 November 2018
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition that causes varying degrees of disability. It is usually caused by brain damage suffered in the womb or during or soon after childbirth—often a result of medical errors or malpractice—and it is a non-progressive, but lifelong and incurable condition.

Some individuals have mild disabilities, while others live with debilitating mobility limitations and other complications.

While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, treatments like hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help patients enjoy a better quality of life.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is a treatment used for decompression sickness, certain infections, and wounds that are difficult to heal. It involves using a pressure chamber that increases surrounding air pressure by three times what is normal along with higher concentrations of oxygen. This allows the lungs to absorb more oxygen than they would under standard conditions. The added oxygen in the blood helps fight bacterial infections, increase the body’s growth factors, and promote stem cell growth, all of which speed healing.

HBOT and Cerebral Palsy
Using HBOT to treat cerebral palsy is not typical, and evidence that it can help these patients is limited. And yet there is evidence, and there is hope, as well as anecdotal stories of people who have experienced significant benefits from trying the therapy. Part of the problem is that there have been few adequate scientific studies of HBOT for cerebral palsy. The idea that HBOT could help people with cerebral palsy is that the additional oxygen could heal damaged brain cells.

One randomized study did find that patients with cerebral palsy experienced improvements in overall function. These included improved speech, memory, attention, and gross motor skills. But the results were questioned because the control group of patients received pressurized air as part of the treatment. A few other studies have shown that children receiving HBOT experienced improvements, but these lacked good controls or randomization, calling the results into question.

Anecdotal evidence of HBOT’s effectiveness has been more powerful. One young man who suffered brain damage at an early age was severely disabled as a result. After years of regular HBOT instigated by his parents they report big improvements: he can see better, his muscles are more relaxed, and he can control some of his movements.

Criticism of HBOT for Cerebral Palsy
The main criticism of this type of treatment is that there is no real evidence it is effective in relieving the symptoms of cerebral palsy or restoring function. Some critics go further and suggest that the risks of harm from HBOT are much too high to warrant using it in children with cerebral palsy. These risks may include ruptured ear drums, a collapsed lung and difficulty breathing, nearsightedness, and even seizures.

Whether or not HBOT will prove to be an effective and useful treatment for more children with cerebral palsy remains to be seen. Proponents push for more research while critics say it is too risky and not helpful. For parents of children with this debilitating disease it provides some degree of hope, although because it is not a recognized treatment it is rarely, if ever, covered by insurance plans. Parents who cannot afford costly HBOT may need to rely on financial assistance or compensation from lawsuits to help their children try this treatment.

Details about cerebral palsy and related developmental conditions are accessible via cerebralpalsyguidance.com. For more information call 866-579-8495 or visit their About page.

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