A stroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain.
It can result in severe brain damage, paralysis, and even death. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is a leading cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.1
While there are treatments available for stroke, they may not always be effective. However, there is a new and innovative treatment that has shown promise in improving stroke outcomes: hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
In this article, we'll explore the evidence behind hyperbaric treatment and how it can benefit stroke patients.
Understanding Ischaemic Stroke
Ischaemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for about 85% of all cases.1 It occurs when there is a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery to the affected area. Without oxygen, brain cells begin to die, and the longer the blockage remains, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage.
The symptoms of a stroke can vary depending on the severity and location of the blockage. Some common symptoms include:
- Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
- Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Loss of balance or coordination, dizziness, or trouble walking
It's crucial to recognize these symptoms and seek medical attention right away. The sooner treatment is received, the better the chances of a successful recovery. But then, what happens after the initial treatment? That's where hyperbaric oxygen therapy comes in.
Why Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. The pressurized chamber allows for oxygen to dissolve in the patient's blood plasma and reach areas that may be inaccessible under normal conditions. This increased oxygen level can help reduce inflammation, stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, and promote healing.2
Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help Stroke Victims?
There is evidence to suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be a beneficial treatment for stroke patients, particularly those who have suffered from an ischaemic stroke.
One study published in the Journal of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience found that HBOT can improve neurological function and reduce the size of brain lesions in patients with ischaemic stroke.3 Other studies have demonstrated the benefits of Hyperbarics in improving cognitive function in stroke patients.4,5
How Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Help a Stroke?
Hyperbaric Oxygen has several potential benefits for stroke patients, including:
- Improved neurological function: hyperbaric oxygen has been shown to improve neurological function in stroke patients. Patients who receive hyperbaric oxygen had better scores on tests measuring cognitive function, motor function, and overall disability compared to those who did not receive hyperbarics.5,6,7
- Reduced brain damage: Stroke can cause brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and blood flow. Hyperbaric therapy can help reduce this damage by increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain.6,7
- Faster recovery: Hyperbaric therapy can promote healing and reduce inflammation, allowing stroke patients to recover more quickly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve recovery time and overall quality of life in stroke patients.6,7
- Fewer complications: Hyperbaric treatment has a low risk of complications, making it a safe option for stroke patients. Hyperbaric oxygen is demonstrably well-tolerated by stroke patients and is not typically associated with any significant adverse effects when administered in controlled settings.4
HBOT and Home Hyperbaric Chambers
While hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients is typically administered in a clinical setting, some patients may benefit from using a home hyperbaric chamber. These hyperbaric chambers are designed for personal use and can be used to administer hyperbaric oxygen in the comfort of one's own home.
Using a home hyperbaric chamber can be a convenient and cost-effective way to receive hyperbaric treatment. It can also be helpful for patients who have difficulty traveling to a clinical setting, such as those with mobility issues or those who live in remote areas.
As with any medical treatment, it is important that patients considering using a home hyperbaric chamber consult with a qualified healthcare provider to determine whether hyperbaric therapy is appropriate for their individual situation and do their research before purchasing a hyperbaric chamber.
This article is written by Dr. Callista Chinenye Emecheta a Medical Doctor and a Public Health Scholar at the University of Northampton, England.
- American Stroke Association (2022). About Stroke. [online] American Stroke Association. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke.
- Gottfried, I., Schottlender, N. and Ashery, U. (2021). Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment—From Mechanisms to Cognitive Improvement. Biomolecules, [online] 11(10), p.1520. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/biom11101520.
- Hadanny, A., Rittblat, M., Bitterman, M., May-Raz, I., Suzin, G., Boussi-Gross, R., Zemel, Y., Bechor, Y., Catalogna, M. and Efrati, S. (2020). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves neurocognitive functions of post-stroke patients – a retrospective analysis. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 38(1), pp.93–107. doi:https://doi.org/10.3233/rnn-190959.
- Encyclopedia of Biomedical Gerontology (2020). Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. [online] www.sciencedirect.com. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy [Accessed 4th May 2023].
- Marcinkowska, A.B., Mankowska, N.D., Kot, J. and Winklewski, P.J. (2021). Impact of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy on Cognitive Functions: a Systematic Review. Neuropsychology Review, 32(1), pp.99–126. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11065-021-09500-9.
- Cozene, B., Sadanandan, N., Gonzales-Portillo, B., Saft, M., Cho, J., Park, Y.J. and Borlongan, C.V. (2020). An Extra Breath of Fresh Air: Hyperbaric Oxygenation as a Stroke Therapeutic. Biomolecules, 10(9), p.1279. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10091279.
- Chen, G., Zhai, W., Sun, L. and Yu, Z. (2016). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in experimental and clinical stroke. Medical Gas Research, [online] 6(2), p.111. doi:https://doi.org/10.4103/2045-9912.184721.