Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a new form of medical treatment which is being studied extensively for autism. It is a safe, effective and a non invasive procedure.
“Hyper” means more and “Baric” means pressure, i.e. this therapy uses pressure to distribute more oxygen into body tissues such as brain along with blood, cerebrospinal fluid, etc.
In an enclosed, specially designed, pressurized chamber, the patient inhales 100% oxygen at a pressure three times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. Each session of HBOT lasts upto 45-60 minutes. Patient may require upto 40 sessions of HBOT to see the benefits.
Under high pressure, our lungs tend to breathe in more oxygen and also, more oxygen is dissolved in the blood and CSF, delivering more oxygen to the oxygen deficient body tissues. The body’s healing process improves with more oxygen supply. Various studies have demonstrated use of HBOT in improving speech, cognition, memory, behavior, hyperactivity, etc in autism.
Decreased blood flow, inflammation, weak immune system, excess of free radicals are one of the few factors leading to autism. HBOT, overcomes these issues by providing more oxygen to the brain, forming new blood vessels, and preventing further damaged to the brain cells. It regulates the immune system and reduces inflammation. HBOT also functions as an antibiotic as it helps to decrease the abnormal pathogens in the gut often found in children with autism and improving the dysbiosis.
However, it may also have some side effects such as Barotraumatic injury (in the ear, nasal sinuses, lungs and teeth), oxygen toxicity, myopia, cataract, claustrophobia, anxiety. Inhalation of high concentration of oxygen under pressure may also result in seizures. Prolonged treatment of HBOT may also lead to chest tightness and toxic pulmonary effects. The effects of HBOT are not consistent in all studies. Even though, some children may benefit from HBOT, it is still not an established treatment. It is highly recommended that before deciding on the treatment you discuss the details of HBOT with the specialist doctor and know whether it will help your child.