Is there a potential transformative power of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke recovery? Explore how this innovative therapy boosts oxygen levels and holds promise for improved outcomes in stroke management and rehabilitation.
Stroke is one of the cardiovascular diseases. After a heart attack, stroke is the most common cardiovascular problem. It means that the causes of stroke are similar to those of heart attack. Thus, increasing obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disorders are also causing an increase in stroke events. Yet, despite so many deaths occurring due to stroke, its treatment remains unsatisfactory.
A stroke is a medical emergency. The first four to six hours are highly critical for stroke patients. Stroke mainly occurs due to blockage of one or another artery supplying blood to the brain. More than 90% of strokes are ischemic, and about 10% are due to rupturing arteries in the brain.
Since most strokes occur due to blockage of arteries and resulting ischemia or disruption in oxygen supply to various brain parts, thus, naturally, emergency treatment of stroke is getting rid of this disruption and boosting the brain’s oxygen supply.
The first line treatment of stroke is an IV injection of blood thinners that help dissolve the freshly formed thrombi, thus ensuring blood flow to critical brain structures. However, once the patient has stabilized, doctors would need to use other means of helping stroke patients. For example, most stroke patients would need oxygen therapy. However, hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients may have particular value in the initial few hours. It may also help during the rehabilitation phase1.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke recovery
Before we discuss HBO therapy’s role in stroke management, it is vital to understand that stroke is a medical emergency and a life-threatening condition. Thus, it is essential to realize that HBO therapy is provided only after first-line treatment. Its role is that of supportive treatment.
Studies suggest that HBO can help boost the brain’s oxygen level, reduce inflammation and swelling, and thus help improve survivability. A systemic review published in Cochrane Library concluded that data from 11 studies show that HBO treatment may help stroke patients. However, there is a need for more studies into hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke recovery, to make conclusions2.
Researchers think there is currently insufficient research to understand the exact role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in stroke recovery. In addition, there is more need to understand when it must be used and how often.
Some experts think HBO would be most helpful when given 3 to 6 hours post-stroke. It is still possible to save brain cells from dying during this period. However, this critical period was missed in many studies, which may explain poor treatment outcomes. Another approach proposed by some experts is to provide multiple HBOT sessions to salvage the injured neurons3,4.
To sum up, it is logical to understand that HBOT therapy would be highly helpful in stroke recovery. However, it may be particularly helpful when given within a few hours of the stroke. However, very few studies have tested HBO use in that critical window period.
Additionally, there is a need to understand the role of multiple HBO treatments and their influence on long-term outcomes in stroke patients.
Nevertheless, early evidence suggests that it may help in acute stroke and certainly may have a role in post-stroke rehabilitation.
- Bansal S, Sangha KS, Khatri P. Drug Treatment of Acute Ischemic Stroke. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2013;13(1):10.1007/s40256-013-0007-6. doi:10.1007/s40256-013-0007-6
- Bennett MH, Weibel S, Wasiak J, Schnabel A, French C, Kranke P. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for acute ischaemic stroke. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;(11). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004954.pub3
- Zhang JH, Lo T, Mychaskiw G, Colohan A. Mechanisms of hyperbaric oxygen and neuroprotection in stroke. Pathophysiology. 2005;12(1):63-77. doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2005.01.003
- Sánchez EC. Mechanisms of Action of Hyperbaric Oxygenation in Stroke: A Review. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly. 2013;36(3):290. doi:10.1097/CNQ.0b013e318294e9e3
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