When it comes to traumatic brain injuries doctors offer little hope to patients. There is one treatment however that works improving the lives of those who deal with daily struggles. Sadly when it comes to obtaining this treatment governments do not currently cover the costs.
New research on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatment(HBOT) for traumatic brain injury (TBI) will be presented next week at the 8th World Congress on Brain Injury in Washington DC.
After the initial positive findings of two Airmen who were treated with HBOT after being disabled during a roadside burning were complete Dr. Harch returned to continue his study.
Fifteen symptomatic U.S. military veterans who had been diagnosed by either military or civilian neuropsychologists and neurologists for TBI from blast-induced PCS(2) or PCS/PTSD(13) took part in the second study.
Subjects completed cognitive testing, brain imaging (identical to the imaging in the online case above in Cases Journal) , symptom and quality of life questionnaires, and affective measures pre and immediately post a course of forty HBOT sessions. The sessions took place twice a day, five days a week for four weeks.
After the thirty day course of HBOT treatment the subjects all showed significant symptomatic, cognitive, and affective improvements.
Dr. Paul G. Harch, author of The Oxygen Revolution: Changing Medicine & Saving Lives, has been working with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) at the University of Louisiana as a Clinical Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Program Director, Hyperbaric Medicine Department.
"I turned over the fellowship directorship in 3/09 to one of my junior faculty. I had been the director for 18 years"
He believes that HBOT treatments could be used to help millions of Americans who suffer from brain injury or disease.
Dr. Harch went to John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has recently secured a $1.2 million congressional appropriation to perform a randomized controlled study of HBOT in TBI and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD). He has been working for over 20 years in the field with success stories abounding. Dr. Harch is the first President of the International Hyperbaric Medical Association (established in 2001) and President of the International Hyperbaric Medical Association Foundation.
Dr. Harch discussed his treatments and the politics that hinder its use with Digital Journal. Without enough published material the government of the United States and Canada are not backing the use of HBOT for patients with brain injuries.
"The amount of change in these patients is unheard of. There is dramatic improvements and yet because of the political red-tape it is not being offered to those that need it the most."
His first published case of treating a soldier was in 2008. Brig. Gen. Patt Maney was treated in Washington using the protocol Harch developed. He is now back on the bench as a state judge in Florida. Subsequently, Dr. Zant, on referral from Dr. Wright treated the two airmen.
"I have a series of other veterans that I treated after the machine gunner based on an open pledge to treat them for free so that I could demonstrate to the military that we had a treatment for their most pressing problem. After the original 5 subjects I quickly put further treatment under the Louisiana State University School of Medicine’s Institutional Review Board. This is the current pilot trial. We are now treating the 25th subject. We are approved for 30. I am reporting the first 15 at the meeting."
Dr. Harch said that for about 1 out of 5 patients there is a short term transient emotional phase that goes away with continued treatments.
"We (my team) are encouraged when we see these emotional breakthroughs, mostly overly sensitive reactions. It means that the brain is beginning to heal, that progress is happening. There's an adage that a patient has to get 'worse before they get better.' In our treatment this is sometimes true."
This is very uncommon, most people in hyperbaric medicine they will tell you they have never seen it. The veterans are an exception in that one third will show transient deterioration. It is a strong sign that this is not a placebo effect. Unfortunately those opposed to this treatment have in the past used this against the treatment.
Most of the over 600 patients that Harch has worked with have had a smooth progression with the treatments.
As for the 15 soldiers in the study, all have recently undergone a 6 month follow-up with flying colors.
"The results have all been heads up!"
Dr. Harch discussed one of his most dramatic cases. A 15-year-old girl who was born with a heart defect. During surgery as an infant air entered her heart chamber. That caused the child extreme emotional, gait, seizure and facial ticcing problems.
As a young teen she had no friends, her gait was teased, her facial tics and other conditions caused her emotional torment. Then she was treated by Dr. Harch. After the first treatment there was visible improvements.
During the course of treatment she did experience a period of being out of control emotionally. What should the doctors do? Harch knew if the treatment was discontinued this emotional behavior would continue. They pushed on.
Today she walks with no gait and has zero facial ticcing.
"She's now married and happy. The treatment hit a home run ball with for this patient and for so many more."
In clinical trials using children with cerebral palsy doctors discovered that five areas of the brain showed activity. Those areas were in the rage, aggression and memory sectors.
"This was as yet unpublished data from the first 9 cerebral palsy (CP) children I treated with HBOT in the early 1990s. The brain imaging analysis was done by a nationally renown expert in SPECT brain imaging. The five centers with significant improvement in blood flow were areas that correlated with memory, aggression, rage, vision, and sensation. The improvements in these areas correlated with mothers’ reports of improved cognition and reduction in irritability/temper."
"The doctors that work with these children on a daily basis told me that the children were having improvements that had never seen before."
What the soldiers are dealing with after TBI is different than much of the rest of the population. They are fighting aggressive behaviors often as a result of their brain injuries that come from roadside blasts. The treatment with these soldiers is having a calming effect on their emotions.
HBOT has been used for years. In brain injury it has been researched in a private clinic and hospital for over 20 years with success. Yet, with all the positive data and success it is still not viewed by the government as a proven therapy.
Harch continues to fight for FDA approval of HBOT for the troops and the rest of the population who face the devastating life changes that a traumatic brain injury causes. There is a treatment. It's called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. It works, and it's time that it is being used to help the lives of millions.