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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Post-Stroke Recovery

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Post-Stroke Recovery

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment aids in the recovery of many types of injuries and illnesses – one of which is a stroke. 

Hyperbaric oxygen as a form of post-stroke therapy is not widely known, but we have done two separate studies that account for its effectiveness during recovery.

The first study explores how hyperbaric oxygen therapy induces neuroplasticity in post-stroke patients. We examine if it influences any neurological changes that can lead to healing even many months post-stroke. The second study observes how hyperbaric oxygen improves the memory of patients post-stroke.

These studies, could be the start of something big in post-stroke healing. But what exactly is hyperbaric oxygen therapy? If you haven’t seen our previous blogs, you may be a little bit lost, so here’s a quick crash course.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is all about letting the body absorb additional oxygen in order for it to reap the benefits of oxygenation for overall health. While regular breathing allows us to absorb enough oxygen for our cells to perform our most basic bodily functions, breathing in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber increases our oxygen absorption by 28% to 40%.

This increase in absorption allows oxygen to dissolve directly into our cells, tissues, and blood plasma, promoting healing, reducing inflammation, killing anaerobic infections, and helps the nervous system recover. This additional oxygen provides a considerable boost in assisting the body to heal itself, and it’s not really a big surprise that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has a lot of benefits for post-stroke patients

Research on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and post-stroke patients

Two separate studies were conducted to exhibit the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on post-stroke patients.

Both studies involved separate sample sets of patients and various medical tests and scans in providing research results. One of these is SPECT imaging. SPECT stands for single-photon emission computed tomography. SPECT scans allow doctors to analyze some internal organs’ function and observe how blood flows to organs and tissues. They are similar to MRIs in which both can show 3D images of the brain.

The difference between the two is that MRIs show the physical anatomy of the brain while SPECT scans show how the brain works. Through the use of SPECT scans, doctors were able to effectively conclude how hyperbaric oxygen therapy aids in the recovery of post-stroke patients.

The connection between neuroplasticity, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, and post-stroke recovery

The first study aimed to find out if hyperbaric oxygen therapy had any effect on neuroplasticity.

Our brain is responsible for all our bodily functions and movements – sending messages across our blood, tissues, and organs. Also known as brain plasticity or neural plasticity, neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain’s neural network to change. The brain’s neural network creates new connections to compensate for injury, heal from disease and infection, and adjust to new environments or situations throughout our lives.

Neuroplasticity allows us to learn new things, enhances current skills, strengthens areas in the brain when some functions are lost, and most importantly for this blog, aids in the recovery of stroke and other traumatic brain injuries.

The neuroplasticity study

In this study, 74 patients who have experienced an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke within the last 6 months to 3 years. They were separated into two groups. One group was treated with regular hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions, while the other was left untested as a control group.

SPECT imaging, EDL, and quality of life index were used to assess their brain activity. Researchers observed a dramatic improvement in overall function, life quality neurologic functions, and quality of life among the patients who regularly engaged in hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The SPECT imaging showed correlated improvements in areas of the brain where functional losses were associated. This data showed a large improvement in neuroplasticity. Patients in the other control group that did not have hyperbaric oxygen sessions showed no signs of improvement at all.

This study proves that regular hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions encourages neuroplasticity in the brain – which offers a wide range of benefits for post-stroke patients.

The Memory study

A total of 91 patients 18 years or older who experienced an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke within the past 3 to 180 months, and were tested and observed for a total of 5 months.

The second study was done specifically to address memory impairment common among our post-stroke patients. One group went through a 90-minute hyperbaric oxygen therapy session at 2-atmospheres of pressure 5 days a week, while the other remained a controlled group. 

SPECT scan results and memory testing before and after clinical trials showed a statistically significant improvement in all measures of memory in patients who engaged in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as well as a correlated improvement in their brain metabolism.

Evidence from this study shows that there is a high potential for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat memory impairments in post-stroke patients, even years after they have experienced an acute stroke.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy promotes neovascularization

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers much higher oxygen levels to our blood than when breathing outside the hyperbaric chamber. The increased oxygenation has the capacity to get to areas that aren’t usually reached when we breathe normally. This leads to a plethora of benefits, creating neovascularization, which is the natural forming of new blood vessels.

Getting more oxygen to the damaged centers helps regrow crippled areas, creates stem cell release and encourages neuroplasticity in the brains of post-stroke patients.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is proven to be effective in aiding post-stroke recovery

Many patients can have physical impairments following a stroke. This includes major memory loss, difficulty with motor skills, and problems with balance and coordination. Our research studies have shown that these impairments can absolutely still heal post-stroke with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. With a proper lifestyle and treatment, hyperbaric oxygen shows promise on the improvement in the quality of life in post-stroke patients well after the initial injury.



Vishaal Veerula, MD

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