By Debbie Gregory.
In a continuing effort to treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and reduce the number of veteran suicides, the Department of Veterans Affairs has approved hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to some veterans with PTSD.
In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
It’s suggested that the oxygen-rich environment produced in the brain during a HBOT treatment stimulates the growth of new neurons and neural pathways, although further research is necessary.
HBOT treatment is currently only available to veterans served in the eastern Oklahoma and Northern California VA health care systems. Only veterans who haven’t noticed a decrease in PTSD symptoms from two other, evidence-based treatments are eligible.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. HBOT uses pressurized hyperbaric chambers to deliver high oxygen levels.
“There is nothing more important to us than caring for our nation’s veterans, and that care must include finding different approaches that work best for them,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin.
HBOT is normally used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, and wounds that won’t heal. It has also been used for stroke victims, autism, cerebral palsy, cancer, fibromyalgia and lyme disease. Now HBOT is being used on patients with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well as PTSD.
The VA intends to use its new research to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be made available to more veterans with PTSD, the agency said.