A stroke is a serious condition caused by a clot or hemorrhage of a blood vessel in the brain, causing inadequate blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strokes affect about 795,000 people in the United States each year.
Strokes can cause significant impairment in language, cognition, and motor skills and effects can last for years. Depending on the extent and location of the stroke; symptoms of weakness, paralysis, visual disturbances, speech difficulties, and sometimes loss of consciousness or death can occur.
Traditional stroke rehabilitation options include physical, occupational and speech therapy; but studies have shown that adding hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can dramatically improve results even years after the stroke occurred.
The brain consumes 20 percent of the body’s oxygen, but that is only enough oxygen to operate 5 to 10 percent of neurons at any one time. The regeneration process requires much more energy. The tenfold increase in oxygen levels during HBOT treatment supplies the necessary energy for rebuilding neuronal connections and stimulating inactive neurons to facilitate the healing process.
A recent study conducted in Tel Aviv showed significantly increased neuronal activity in post-stroke patients after a two-month period of HBOT treatment compared to control periods of non-treatment. The results indicate that HBOT treatment can lead to significant improvement in brain function in post-stroke patients even at chronically late stages, helping neurons strengthen and build new connections in damaged regions. Patients experienced improvements such as a reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language.
Although Medicare does not cover HBOT for stroke at this time, more studies are underway to prove the cost effectiveness and incredible benefits of HBOT for stroke.