Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (Mild HBOT)
What does hyperbaric oxygen do? The science behind it.
Physicists figured out years ago that a gas under pressure is more likely to dissolve into liquid- in mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the gas is oxygen and the liquid is blood. But under pressure, oxygen doesn't just hook up to red blood cells the way were used to thinking about it, it also dissolves into the plasma. When that plasma circulates near dormant or injured tissue such as an autistic brain, a bruised muscle, a sprained tendon, or a surgical wound, the oxygen in the plasma dissolves further into the damaged area than the oxygen that's attached to the red blood cell in the conventional delivery system can.
We work daily with children on the spectrum. The biggest improvements that we see for those using just the mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber is improved speech and increased scope of speech. We often have children who are non-verbal begin to speak just have two sessions. Just imagine how much more rewarding speech therapy will be when combined with HBOT treatments.
Other common improvements for Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with autism patients
- Improved Sleep (length of sleep and staying asleep)
- less stimming or elimination of stimming behaviors
- more calm and cooperative
How does the increase in oxygen help my child?
Remember that first paragraph where increased pressure dissolved more oxygen into the plasma in addition to loading up all of the red blood cells? When that oxygen enriched plasma circulates near dormant or injured tissue such as an autistic or encephalopathic brain, a bruised muscle, a sprained tendon, or a surgical wound, the oxygen dissolves further into the damaged area than the oxygen that's attached to the red blood cell in the conventional room air way. It penetrates deeper, allowing for potential healing in a place that either wouldn't happen at all (the autistic or encephalopathic brain) or wouldn't happen for a while until the more superficial tissue heals first (the sprains and bruises and surgical wounds)
How much is too little and how much is too much?
A little oxygen is room air- 21% FiO2- and it loads 93-98% of your red blood cells with oxygen every time they pass through your lungs. This keeps most of us going day in and day out. A lot of oxygen- virtually 100% FiO2- is what divers breathe from their tanks- and what they use in high pressure hard shell chambers at hospitals - it's potentially explosive and can be toxic to your body if you get too much for too long. Higher pressures and high levels of oxygen can be necessary when treating a diver who has "the bends" and certain wounds that won't heal. But the world of hyperbaric medicine is learning that lower pressures and less oxygen seem to have excellent effect on multiple systems of our bodies. In particular, lower pressure appears to be more beneficial for the injured brain than higher pressure.
So, how much is just right?
Somewhere in between too little and too much is what the mild hyperbaric chamber does. It pressurizes us to 1.3 atmospheres of pressure, effectively like going to the bottom of an 11 foot swimming pool and hanging out there with air to breathe and ears that are equalized. The experience feels like what happens when a pilot pressurizes an airplane cabin. When we fly they increase the cabin pressure to maintain something close to room air for us while we are at altitude in the "thin" oxygen poor air of our friendly skies.
When we use a concentrator we enrich the oxygen in the chamber even more- the concentrator removes most of the nitrogen that is in room air delivering more concentrated O2 through a small accessory tube to which we can attach a mask if a child will wear it. The end result is something more than 21% FiO2 and less than 100% FiO2 and will vary depending on whether or not a child will wear a mask or sit near the accessory oxygen.
Experience indicates our children probably get about 40% FiO2 overall in the mild hyperbaric chamber with a concentrator on. Lower pressures and smaller increases in oxygen content like the environment generated in the mild chamber seem to be ideal for promoting healing of dormant and injured cells.
Oxygen Therapy - A little is good (mild), then why not 100% oxygen chambers?
Remember that a little oxygen is good, too much oxygen is toxic and can actually induce oxidative stress (impairing healing of any sort), and in between there somewhere is superb. If a little is good, more is not necessarily better is an important concept in mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy.