The Crossroads of Special Operations

Saturday, May 8, 2021

An old science used in a new way to cure veterans | Dr. Joseph Dituri, Ph.D. CDR, U.S. Navy (ret)

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The science used to help cure divers with decompression sickness in the late 1800 is NOW being used to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Decompression sickness was common in the late 1800’s, and a hyperbaric chamber was built to administer oxygen and cure the bends.  Current research shows that the same technology used to heal divers has been clinically proven to increase capillary growth, increase white blood cell activity which assists body in fighting infection, promote tissue strength, speed healing, reduce pain, reduce swelling, increase collagen production, reduce the size of gas bubbles and has numerous other physiological effects. (1)

In July of 2019, Governor Ron Desantis (R – Florida) signed Florida House Bill 501 into law which affords veterans alternative treatment options for traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the form of hyperbarics. Additionally, in September of 2019 legislation was presented to the US House to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish hyperbaric oxygen therapy to veterans with TBI or PTSD. Current suggested methods for dealing with PTSD/TBI are counseling and drug therapy which have limited efficacy.  Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) offers an alternative to those treatments providing a quicker and non-invasive option. This therapy is easily administered by relaxing in a hyperbaric chamber and breathing the surrounding oxygen which is used to pressurize the cabin making it transparent to breathing air.

There is 21% oxygen (O2) in the air that we breathe, and our lungs transfer this oxygen to our red blood cells. When there is a restriction in blood flow due to injury the red blood cells block the blood vessel and are unable to transfer oxygen to the cells on the other side of the blockage. This causes swelling and starves the area of O2 which leads to cell death. Breathing 100% oxygen under pressure (or HBO) causes O2 to diffuse into the blood plasma. This oxygen-rich plasma is able to travel past the blockage, diffusing up to 3 times further into the tissue. The pressurized environment helps to reduce swelling and discomfort, while providing the body with 10-15 times its normal supply of oxygen to help repair tissue damaged by the original blockage. HBO also mobilizes the body’s circulating stem cells which helps healing. The American Journal Physiology reports a single 2-hour exposure to HBO at 2 ATA doubles circulating CD34+ progenitor stem cells and at approx. 20-hours of HBO; circulating CD34+ cells increases by 800%. (2)

Previous clinical studies showed that after HBO, 52% of patients no longer met the threshold criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD. Additionally, 10 of the 12 patients who expressed suicidal ideation prior to the HBO did not express suicidal thoughts after treatment. Significant improvement was also noted in neurological exam symptoms, dominant hand motor speed and dexterity, PTSD, depression (including reduction in suicidal ideation), and reduced psychoactive medication usage. Currently researchers in Tampa Florida are involved in a clinical demonstration at the Undersea Oxygen Clinic www.underseaoxygenclinic.com to further show the effectiveness of this treatment to a broader audience.

Not only have our patients seen improvements in the conditions for which they are referred but we have seen many other “old numbness and tingling” improving and pain decreasing. HBO is by no means the “cure all,” but it absolutely is an effective, ethical, medically safe treatment available for PTSD/TBI. The treatment is showing promise for anyone with brain injury, no matter how the injury is acquired. In some cases, HBO healed injured brains (and other localized pain and numbness) and subsequently reduced, and in some cases completely alleviating, the symptoms associated with the TBI.

This link below has more information about the study which aired on Tampa News Channel 8. https://www.facebook.com/103252938021/posts/10156310700978022/


1) Hyperbaric Medicine Practice 4th Edition, Harry T. Whelan, Eric Kindwall, et al. 2017 Best Publishing

2) American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology (Nov 05)]

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