Stroke and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Stroke and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

April 14, 2021

A stroke is an episode in which a blockage occurs anywhere within the brain, cutting off blood, oxygen and nutrient supply for more than a minute. Sometimes, strokes can last for days. If left untreated, a stroke can kill a patient quickly; unfortunately, some patients may still die within a year or longer from the lingering effects of the stroke event.

There are 3 types of strokes: ischemic, hemorrhagic and a transient ischemic stroke (TIA).

An ischemic stroke, which is the most common type, is caused by a blocked or narrowed artery. This narrowing or blockage can be caused for fat deposits or a blood clot. When this happens, the blood flow is greatly decreased to the area of the brain that is fed by the affected artery. Since the blood is responsible for carrying the majority of oxygen, the brain tissue may become hypoxic quickly and lose its ability to function.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel within the brain ruptures, causing hypoxia to the affected area of the brain as well as damage to the areas where the uncontrolled bleeding occurs.

A TIA, or transient ischemic stroke is often referred to as a “mini stroke” and is often a red flag warning of an impending ischemic stroke. During a TIA, blood flow is blocked temporarily, usually no longer than 5 minutes. A patient may experience multiple TIAs over a long period of time before experiencing a full ischemic stroke.

If a patient is treated quickly for the acute stroke event and the immediate threat of blood loss is treated, there may still be long term damage done to the affected area of the brain. Depending on where the stroke occured, the patient may experience a complete or partial loss of function to their limbs, cognition or both due to leftover inflammation and lack of oxygen. Some patients may lose the ability to talk, walk, execute fine motor skills, as well as experience pain or nerve tingling in the affected body parts.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been utilized during the emergency phase of strokes, as well as for the long-term damage after strokes. According to research, in order for a patient to utilize HBOT during a stroke event, they would need to be placed in the chamber within 3-6 hours of the initial injury. The pressurized oxygen can reduce the inflammation at the source of the bleed. Iit may also prevent the brain from having any long-term damage due to the lack of further inflammation in the tissues.

If a patient is unable to treat their acute stroke with hyperbaric therapy, they may still see benefits from the modality, even decades after the event. Increased oxygen to the brain may reduce residual neuroinflammation and allow for more blood flow to the damaged tissues. This can lead to partial or full repair of the brain. Research from Dr. Paul Harch and others have shown that there is no time limitation on repairing damaged brain tissue. Patients have reported regaining full mobility and cognition after a series of hyperbaric treatments.

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