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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and How it can help treating Autism?

hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy hbot what-is-hbot
Autism can be treated effectively using hyperbaric oxygen therapy if it is used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan and administered in conjunction with additional therapies and medications that fit your individual needs.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been studied for use in the treatment of many medical conditions, with increased interest and success during the past ten years. Research shows benefits for many conditions such as Brain injuries like Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain injuries, Stroke, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also showed significant benefits in treating inflammatory diseases like Fibromyalgia, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Lyme, Parkinson’s and many autoimmune diseases.
Pressurized oxygen has tremendous healing capabilities. Some non-verbal patients begin speaking and have improved articulation. enables cognitive function. Patients benefited with improved attention, concentration, and the ability to follow directions, along with a reduction in hyperactivity. HBOT also improves muscle tone because oxygen increases muscle mass.


The first documented use of hyperbaric therapy within a chamber dates back to 1662. In 1834 in France, Junod began treating pulmonary diseases in a hyperbaric chamber of his own construction. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy was first used to recompress divers by Behnke in the 1930's, and to reduce the side effects of radiation in cancer treatment by Churchill Davidson in the 1950's. While its history is long and varied, today Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is found in many of the best hospitals and clinics around the world. Advanced research and education continues to reinforce the therapy's benefits and fuel its growth.


What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is designed to boost the supply of oxygen to ischemic tissue or to diseased tissues that respond to increased oxygen levels. Increasing the volume of oxygen dissolved in the blood plasma which triggers the body to produce five basic effects:

  • Reduction of volume of gas bubbles in the blood

  • Vasoconstriction, which reduces edema and secondary hypoxia
  • Restoration of aerobic metabolism to ischemic tissue
  • Detoxification of poisoned tissues
  • Enhanced phagocytosis

How HBOT works?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a natural way to let your body heal itself. Under normal atmospheric pressure the red blood cells carry most of the oxygen to the body’s tissues via the arteries; a small amount of oxygen is also present in different parts of the blood and other fluids in the body. As the arteries branch off again and again they become very narrow and red blood cells just fit through them. This is the place that most of the oxygen is supplied to the tissues. However an injury can cause these small vessels to stop working correctly, and of the oxygen is cut off from the tissue partially when that needs it most. Because some oxygen is still getting to this tissue, a lot of it can stay alive; however it cannot communicate or function properly without the normal flow of oxygen

HBOT is performed to support the oxygen demands of the body at rest in the absence of hemoglobin! Patient will be asked to sit or lie down inside the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy chamber depending upon size of the chamber and 100% oxygen is set under elevated atmospheric pressure for the duration of the therapy session. By placing someone in such a high (3 psi) pressure hyperbaric environment, the increase in atmospheric pressure at sea level goes from 760 mm Hg to 915 mm Hg. This increase in gas pressure increases the partial pressure of the oxygen gas and thus forces more oxygen to be dissolved in the plasma. This saturation of oxygen in the blood, due to the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), allows the extra oxygen to be diffused or transported to the surrounding body tissues. Thus, oxygen transport by plasma is significantly increased under hyperbaric therapy (HBOT ).

At these atmospheres pressure, enough oxygen can be dissolved in the plasma. This will help the previously deprived tissue to start receiving oxygen from all sources; as a result it can start communicating with the rest of the body and work efficiently to start the healing process. Now that the tissue has begun communicating, it tells the body that it needs more oxygen and instructs it to rebuild the damaged vessels.

The periods of high oxygenation from a therapy session followed by low oxygenation from normal atmospheric pressure oxygen levels start to fall again naturally in the areas where the small vessels were damaged. This will cause the new vessel growth and make the recovery permanent.

How treatment is performed?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy typically is performed as an outpatient procedure and does not require hospitalization. If you're already hospitalized and require hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you'll remain in the hospital during, or be transported back to the hospital following, a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session. Depending on the type of medical institution you go to and the reason you require treatment, you may receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy in one of two settings:

  • A unit designed for one person. In an individual (monoplace) unit, you lie down on a padded table that slides into a clear plastic tube about 7 feet long.
  • A room designed to accommodate several people. In multiperson hyperbaric oxygen room which usually looks like a hospital waiting room inside you may sit or lie down. A lightweight, clear hood may be placed over your head to deliver the oxygen to you, or you may wear a mask over your face to receive the oxygen.

A therapy session may last from one to two hours. The more treatments, the greater the improvement. Some see significant benefits with as few as five; forty to sixty treatments are more common. HBO chambers vary among manufacturers; some are very large, others portable. An individual assessment, including a patient’s age, severity of the gut problems, and consideration of other therapies being done simultaneously, determines the proper number of treatments and which type of chamber is appropriate. Insurance sometimes covers HBOT with a pre- and post- treatment SPECT scan.

How does it feel like after Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy ?

During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the air pressure in the room is approximately two to three times normal air pressure. The increased air pressure will create a temporary feeling of fullness in your ears similar to what you might feel in an airplane or at a high elevation that can be relieved by yawning, gulping saliva or with other measures to "pop" your ears.

You may also feel lightheaded following your treatment. Typically, this feeling goes away within a few minutes and doesn't limit normal activities.

Are there any risks involved ?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapyis generally a safe procedure, and complications are rare. But, as with any medical procedure, it does carry a risk of complications. Potential complications include:
  • Temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by increased blood oxygen levels
  • Middle ear and inner ear injuries, including leaking fluid and eardrum rupture, due to increased air pressure
  • Organ damage caused by air pressure changes (barotrauma)
  • Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system

Any precautions needed?

  • Pure oxygen can cause fire if there is a source of ignition, such as a spark or flame, and adequate fuel, so avoid anything that could ignite fire, such as lighters or battery powered devices.
  • Avoid any petroleum-based and potentially flammable that are commonly used in hair and wound-care products.

Don’t forget to ask a member of your health care team for specific instructions prior to your first hyperbaric oxygen therapy session.

Recent Studies on hbot therapy:

Hyperbaric Treatment for Children with Autism: A Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial Daniel A Rossignol,

et al. BMC Pediatrics 2009, 9:21 doi:10.1186/1471-2431-9-21
The Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy on Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Symptoms in Children with Autism: An Open-Label Pilot Study Daniel A Rossignol,

et al. BMC Pediatrics 2007, 7:36 doi:10.1186/1471-2431-7-36


Although more research regarding hyperbaric oxygen therapy is under way, currently there's insufficient scientific evidence to support claims that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can effectively treat the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Stroke
  • Resources

  • You can find more information about HBOT at the following resources. 

HBOT Videos


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Disclaimer: The information provided at Recovery From Autism (RFA) is for informational purposes only. The faculty of RFA is not providing medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and cannot replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. (Full Disclaimer)