Cerebral Palsy and Hyperbarics

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a blanket term for a group of conditions that affect movement, posture and other motor skills and may result in the need for life-long care. Two to three children out of every 1,000 have CP in the U.S. Studies have yielded rates as low as 2.3 per 1,000 children to as high as 3.6 per 1,000 children.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been shown in some studies to alleviate the effects of CP. Many forms of CP result from a lack of oxygen to the brain that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing — before birth, during birth, or immediately after. Affected brain tissue can be recovered or improved by introducing increased levels of oxygen. HBOT has been shown to be a promising treatment with multiple studies reporting improvements with its application.

Studies have demonstrated the following benefits of HBOT for CP.

Enhance Neurological Repair and Regeneration with HBOT

  • Reduces the effects of low oxygen levels on the neonatal brain
  • Promotes the creation of new brain cells
  • Moderates mitochondrial disorders
  • Enhances stem cell growth and mobilization
  • Increases brain tissue healing
  • Escalates the creation of new brain connections

Improve Overall Function with HBOT

  • Advances cognitive function
  • Improves gross/fine motor skills
  • Enhances speech and language
  • Improves memory and concentration
  • Alleviates spasticity
  • Lessens frequency of seizures
  • Stimulates better eye contact
  • Improves balance and walking

Source: International Hyperbarics Association

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Study: Motor Function Improved with HBOT

In 2014, a controlled longitudinal study was published in the Undersea Hyperbaric Medicine Journal and assessed the effects of intensive rehabilitation combined with HBOT on gross and fine motor function in 150 children with cerebral palsy.

This eight-month study involved every child receiving standard rehabilitation, with three groups also including HBOT into their regimen. The control group consisted of children who did not undergo hyperbaric treatments and participated in standard rehabilitation only. All HBOT groups received 40 one hour sessions, six days a week. The first HBOT group was treated at 1.3 atmospheres absolute (ATA) with compressed air. The second HBOT group was treated at 1.5 ATA with 100 percent oxygen delivered through a hood system and the third HBOT group was treated at 1.75 ATA, also with 100 percent oxygen delivered through a hood system.

“All four groups showed improvements over the course of the treatments in the follow-up evaluations (p < 0.001). However, gross and fine motor function (GMFM) improvement in the three hyperbaric groups was significantly superior to the GMFM improvement in the control group (p < 0.001). There was no significant difference between the three hyperbaric groups.”

Read “Intensive rehabilitation combined with HBO2 therapy in children with cerebral palsy: a controlled longitudinal study”.