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SPECT Imaging, HBOT and Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury




Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and SPECT Brain Imaging in the Treatment of Chronic Brain Injury

Dr. Paul Harch, Former President
Anita W. Duncan, Executive Director

Presentation prepared by Anita W. Duncan CPS/CAP
LHE May 02, 2002 Copyright Retained
Paul G. Harch, M.D. 2002

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and SPECT Brain Imaging in the Treatment of Chronic Brain Injury

Paul G. Harch, M.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor L.S.U. School of Medicine

  • Refined low-pressure Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) protocols for neurological injuries.
  • Presentation includes selective sampling of nearly 700 chronic brain injuries over the past 17 years.
  • Original case was demented diver with residual brain decompression sickness 7 months after injury.
  • Diver achieved clinical, psychometric, & functional brain imaging improvement.
  • Discovery then generalized to patients with:
    • Chronic traumatic brain injury.
    • Cerebral palsy.
    • Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Toxic brain injury.
    • Chronic stroke.
    • Alzheimer’s Disease.
    • Autism.
    • Substance abuse.
    • 70 other neurological conditions.
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • After demonstrating effectiveness in humans, a 1996 and 2001 animal study demonstrated the first ever improvement in chronic brain injury.
  • Treatment protocol developed by Dr. Harch now being used in research/clinical practices by multiple centers throughout the United States and internationally.
  • World-wide experience has demonstrated the generic rehabilitative potential of low pressure HBOT in chronic brain and neurological injury.

    LHE May 02, 2002 Copyright Retained
    Paul G. Harch, M.D. 2002

HBOT Case Presentation - Autism


• 3 year old female born 3 weeks premature to a mother with mild toxemia; fetal distress, emergency C-section. Extensive neurological workup over the next year.

• Final diagnoses: Persistent Developmental Delay/Autism/Mild, Mental Retardation. 

• Can't talk or walk (walks on knees).
• Minimum eye contact.
• Afraid of crowds and people.

• No self-help.
• Self-abusive behavior.

1st SPECT Scan: Marked reduction in blood flow to temporal lobes,
less so to cerebral lobes.



• 80 HBOT treatments.
• Walks with a walker.
• Makes eye contact and is interactive and playful.
• Comfortable in crowds and with people.
• Feeds self.
• Decreased self-abusive behavior.







2nd SPECT Scan: Marked improvement in blood flow to temporal and cerebral lobes.
Generalized increase to rest of brain.



• 7 months later: Continued generalized improvement.
• Full ambulation.
• Playful, interactive, affectionate, loving.
• Self-abusive behavior nearly gone.








LHE May 02, 2002 Copyright Retained
Paul G. Harch, M.D. 2002


3 y. female
LHE May 02, 2002 Copyright Retained
Paul G. Harch, M.D. 2002


SPECT Imaging, HBOT and Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury

Dr. Harch's primary interests are hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and SPECT brain imaging indexed neuro-rehabilitation, spanning the entire spectrum of neurological disease.

In 1990, Dr. Harch began treating divers who had chronic residual neurological effects of cerebral decompression illness. While treating them with HBOT, he indexed their treatment and neurological improvements to high resolution SPECT brain imaging. The success with these divers led to the application of HBOT to patients with other chronic neurological disorders. In 1992 he pioneered the application of low pressure HBOT & SPECT brain imaging to the first cerebral palsy child and in 1996 to one of the first autism spectrum children in North America.

The SPECT brain imaging on his patients is legendary and referenced by a library of 85 neurologically normal patients that were recruited and scanned by Dr. Harch at West Jefferson Medical Center. His patients' SPECT brain scans have been featured in multiple editions of the Textbook of Hyperbaric Medicine and at congressional hearings. (Copies of the scans and clinical vignettes of over 20 patients presented in the congressional proceedings, including the first ever treated Alzheimer's patient, can be viewed on the International Hyperbaric Medical Association Website at: K.K. Jain, the Swiss neurosurgeon and hyperbaric author/expert once proclaimed, "Dr. Harch has pictures (brain scans) no one else in the world has." The SPECT brain imaging unequivocally documents the beneficial effects of HBOT in a multitude of patients with diverse neuropathologies, including stroke, trauma, pediatric neurological disorders, toxic brain injury, carbon monoxide poisoning, chronic fatigue, etc.

Multiple Centers and studies have also confirmed Dr. Harch's breakthrough results with neurologically impaired children (Montgomery 1999, Barrett 1999, Collet 2001, Packard 2000,Golden and Neubauer 2002, Waalkes 2002, Sethi 2004, and others) and additional centers are reporting the same experience in adult neurological conditions. [All of these studies are discussed in the article Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Cerebral Palsy and Pediatric Neurology: A Scientific Perspective. Exceptional Parent Magazine, June, 2004; 34(6)].

Due to his expertise and unparalleled success in both animal and human research, Dr. Harch is now recognized as a scientific expert and one of the foremost authorities in the United States on the use of HBOT and SPECT brain imaging for neurological conditions.

“Normal” scan of a 26-year-old woman
“Normal” scan of a 26-year-old woman

1991 pre-treatment scan
1991 pretreatment scan

After 40 HBOT treatments
After 40 HBOT treatments

After 80 HBOT treatments
After 80 HBOT treatments


HBOT - SPECT Imaging

The obvious effects of HBOT treatment can be seen if only a few sessions.

3. Harch PG, et al. HMPAO SPECT brain imaging and low pressure HBOT in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic traumatic, ischemic, hypoxic and anoxic encephalopathies. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, 1994;21(Suppl):30.

28. Harch PG, et al. Use of HMPAO SPECT for assessment of response to HBO in ischemic/hypoxic encephalopathies. Appendix, Textbook of Hyperbaric Medicine, 2nd Edition, 480-491. K.K. Jain, editor. Hogrefe and Huber Pubs., Seattle, 1996.

30. Barrett KF, Masel BE, Harch PG, et al. Cerebral blood flow changes and cognitive improvement in chronic stable traumatic brain injuries treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Neurol, April, 1998 (Suppl):A178-A179.




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