HBOT Helps Heal Stroke Patients and Induces Neuroplacticity

HBOT Helps Heal Stroke Patients and Induces Neuroplacticity

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been shown to activate neuroplasticity in chronic neurological deficiencies resulting from strokes[1]. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections.

Bay Area Hyperbarics has treated hundreds of stroke patients over the last 20 years, with consistent improvements to patients’ quality of life. On the more remarkable side of the spectrum, we observed patients who could not walk, and who were showing no signs of improvement before HBOT, regain the ability to walk upstairs without assistance. Others improved their speech so they could return to work. Yet others regained the ability to read, and others to think clearly and articulate thoughts when previously they were unable. Some patients though experienced more mild improvements, such as improved strength and balance, the ability to assist in transferring from bed to a wheelchair, or to push up from a wheelchair and stand without assistance.

In one recent randomized and controlled study[1], participants showed increases in brain regeneration and in their quality of life indices. Participants’ strokes occurred as few as six months and as many as 36 months prior to the study. Participants in this study were treated with 40 sessions, five days per week over eight weeks.

Of the 57 participants who underwent HBOT, 43% to 55% showed significant improvements, while 29% to 35% showed mild improvements. Overall, 72% of the patients had mild to significant improvements.

Some of those improvements included participants being able to move previously paralyzed fingers, dress themselves, shop and cook. One of the patients who could barely walk regained the ability to climb stairs. She could also feed herself, and she regained speech and reading abilities.

Researchers in this study worked with stroke patients who were no longer improving. Before administering HBOT, researchers analyzed each participants’ brain using CT scans to identify necrotic tissue. They also used SPECT scans to assess the metabolic activity level of neurons surrounding damaged areas. They then administered the same scans after 40 HBOT treatments. In short, they found that HBOT restored significant neurological function in brain tissue that had appeared chronically damaged. In contrast, participants who received no HBOT did not demonstrate any improvement. Because this was a crossover study, the non-HBOT group later received HBOT, and showed the same improvements as the initial experimental group. Pre- versus post- images of the brain demonstrated improvements in blood supply and the increased viability of damaged tissue. They found that idling neurons in many areas again became active. Researchers confirmed that administering oxygen under pressure increases oxygenation in brain tissues by between 10 and 400 times, even into areas of necrotic tissue. This increased oxygen infused into the brain appears to speed up the process of neuroplasticity, as well as angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels to areas previously not receiving sufficient oxygen).

Numerous studies have shown the importance of increased oxygen to the brain after acute ischemia or stoke, and on the value of hyperbaric oxygen in particular. The research to-date proves promising, with few, if any, adverse effects.

For example, numerous studies have suggested that the oxygen supply to blood vessels in stroke-affected areas is severely restricted, leading to oxygen deficiency [6], [7]. Such decreased oxygen levels not only cause a reduction in neuronal activity, but also prevent angiogenesis to replace the stroke-damaged blood vessels and the generation of new synaptic connections. They stress the importance of a high oxygen supply to repair stunned regions of the brain. Several previous studies have shown that an increase in dissolved oxygen has several beneficial effects in damaged brain tissues [8],[9],[10],[11],[12], [13].

When patients breathe oxygen under pressure (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), it increases arterial oxygen tension as well as brain oxygen tension [13],[14],[15]. It also facilitates the flow of blood-dissolved oxygen across the blood-brain barrier. At the minimum then, it is reasonable to expect that HBOT can be an effective method of increasing oxygen to brain tissues, and evoking neuroplasticity, angiogenesis in non-active areas, and increased neuronal activity after a stroke.
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How Hyperbaric Therapy Helps
  • Induces neuroplasticity
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Mobilizes stem cells
  • Increases tissue oxygen delivery
  • Stimulates angiogenesis & cell proliferation needed for axonal regeneration
  • Enhances mitochondrial function (neurons & glial cells)
  • Improves blood-brain barrier reactions
  • Up-regulates axon guidance agents
  • Increases levels of neutrophils & nitric oxide
  • Speeds recovery and rehabilitation
For more details on how HBOT works, see How it works.
Considering if HBOT is appropriate for your patient?

Talk to us, and we’ll help evaluate if HBOT is right for your patient.

Research on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Stroke

Several studies have shown the effectiveness of HBOT in the treatment of stroke, as well as TBI.

  1. Hyperbaric Oxygen Induces Late Neuroplasticity in Post Stroke Patients - Randomized, Prospective TrialOpenInNewTab

    Shai Efrati, et al. January, 2013.

  2. The Effect of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy on Functional Impairments Caused by Ischemic Stroke.  OpenInNewTab

    Emily R. Rosario, et al. May, 2018.

  3. Rationale of hyperbaric oxygenation in cerebral vascular insult.  OpenInNewTab

    Bernhard R Fischer, et al. February, 2010.

  4. Involvement of the mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channel in the neuroprotective effect of hyperbaric oxygenation after cerebral ischemia.  OpenInNewTab

    MinLou, et al. March, 2006

  5. Cerebral oxygenation and the recoverable brain: OpenInNewTab

    Neubauer, Richard A. April, 2018

  6. Pathophysiology and Therapy of Experimental Stroke.  OpenInNewTab

    Konstantin-Alexander Hossmann. May, 2006.
  7. Ischaemic brain damage after stroke: new insights into efficient therapeutic strategies. International Symposium on Neurodegeneration and Neuroprotection: OpenInNewTab

    Culmsee, Carsten, et al. Jan, 2007

  8. Improvement in cerebral metabolism in chronic brain injury after hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  OpenInNewTab

    Golden, Zarabeth L. March, 2002

  9. Mechanisms of hyperbaric oxygen and neuroprotection in stroke: OpenInNewTab

    Zhang, John H. July, 2005

  10. Reduced infarct volume and differential effects on glial cell activation after hyperbaric oxygen treatment in rat permanent focal cerebral ischaemia.  OpenInNewTab

    Albrecht Günther. June, 2005

  11. Hyperbaric oxygen induces endogenous neural stem cells to proliferate and differentiate in hypoxic-ischemic brain damage in neonatal rats: OpenInNewTab

    Y J Yang, et al. November, 2007

  12. Hyperbaric oxygen and cerebral physiology.  OpenInNewTab

    Calvert, John W. July, 2013

  13. Continuous measurements of cerebral tissue oxygen pressure during hyperbaric oxygenation–HBO effects on brain edema and necrosis after severe brain trauma in rabbits.  OpenInNewTab

    A.Niklas, et al. April, 2004.

  14. Effects of cerebral perfusion pressure and increased fraction of inspired oxygen on brain tissue oxygen, lactate and glucose in patients with severe head injury: OpenInNewTab

    Acta Neurochirurgica, et al. June, 2003.

Patients’ Experiences

Amelia, 42
Had significant problems with her balance while walking.
Amelia, a 42 year old woman, had significant problems with her balance while walking. Two years after her stroke she had only been up to her bedroom upstairs once. And that was with someone standing walking next to steady her should she start to fall. So she had not slept in her own bed for two years. She lived and slept only on the main floor of the condo. After Hyperbaric oxygen treatments, she was able to navigate the stairs alone and slept in her own bed every night to her great pleasure and relief.
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Henry, 81-year-old patient
Henry, 81
Lost eyesight in his right eye, which returned during hyperbaric treatments.
Henry, an 81 year old man, came in to our clinic 8 years after his stroke. He had lost his eyesight in his right eye, which returned during his treatments. Additionally, his grandson had to translate what he was saying for us because his mumbling speech made it difficult to understand him. During HBOT his speech became clear enough so translations were no longer necessary.
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Ming, 33-year-old patient
Ming, 33
She regained the ability to recognize and remember faces after HBOT.
Ming, a 33 year old woman, came with a fear of being around people, because she had lost her ability to recognize and remember faces. After treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, she was so excited when she realized that she could remember our faces. It allowed her to feel safe and at ease in her normal day-to-day activities.
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independent hyperbaric clinic in the country.

We’re woman-owned and the longest running independent hyperbaric clinic in the US.

Nearing 25 Years of Experience

Our highly experienced physicians and technicians have provided almost 100,000 treatments since we opened our doors in 1998.

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a painless, relaxing and non-invasive treatment. Our patients often tell us they feel relaxed and alert after their treatment.

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is approved by the American Medical Association, Medicare, the FDA, the Mayo Clinic, and insurance companies to treat a variety of conditions.

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