Oxygen therapy may help heal brain injuries

Oxygen therapy could be an interesting source of hope for West Virginians suffering from brain injuries. Hyperbaric oxygen treatments are recognized as an effective decompression treatment for scuba divers, but they have become the source of some controversy among doctors and scientists dealing with mild traumatic brain injuries.

Over 2.8 million emergency room visits annually are related to brain injuries, and the vast majority are characterized by medical professionals as "mild" traumatic brain injuries, or MTBI, involving no extended loss of consciousness such as a coma. The most common symptoms of MTBI are dizziness, headache and memory loss. While the immediate symptoms generally resolve within a few weeks of injury, some patients are left with depression, fatigue, lingering headaches and other issues that some researches claim could be helped by oxygen therapy.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen while under increased atmospheric pressure in a specialized chamber. Advocates claim that 20 percent of MTBI patients left with lingering symptoms could benefit from increased oxygen levels, which promote greater levels of neurological healing in anecdotal research. The therapy could replace the use of antidepressants and pain medications for some patients. Skeptics point to the lack of clinical trial on the issue and maintain that it should not replace other therapies as treatment without substantially more research.

Auto accidents, falls and youth sports are leading causes of concussions and other brain injuries in the United States. Although victims may be tempted to dismiss a bump on the head after an accident, it could be very serious. Anyone with a concussion or other head injury may be able to get valuable advice from a qualified attorney. Experienced injury advocates may be familiar with the best ways to document brain injuries and advance claims for people hurt by the negligent acts of another.

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