Symptoms and effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), or concussion, can be devastating. For instance, did you know that in some instances TBIs can even cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Unfortunately, few therapies are available which actively work to heal the brain. Typical care recommendations involve resting in a dark room and off-label prescription pharmaceuticals that often have debilitating side effects. This is particularly common with service men and women returning from combat who exhibit signs of PTSD. Recent legislation in Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana, however, provides veterans with a new hope: access to hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which is the only treatment that heals TBI wounds from the inside out.
These laws are a significant initial step to making HBOT available to everyone, nationwide, who experiences a TBI or concussion.
A QUICK RECAP
A traumatic brain injury, which is another way to refer to a concussion, is caused by a stretch or tear in brain tissue. It can often cause a wide range of side effects, from memory loss and depression to constant headaches and focus issues. Some of those who suffer a TBI may end up developing post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a condition in which symptoms continue several weeks or months after the initial injury. There is also increasing evidence that TBIs and PTSD are related.
While rest in a dark room or drugs are oftentimes prescribed to assist in the healing process, they do not address the underlying cause of the brain injury and don’t always help symptoms either. For example: In December 2012, the monthly U.S. Medicine reported that a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested citicoline, a drug approved to treat TBI patients in approximately 60 countries, did not actually improve people’s conditions.
Further, certain drugs are proving to be ineffective—and sometimes even dangerous, since people are at risk of becoming addicted to them or even suicidal.
However, HBOT is a therapy for brain injury that aims to heal the brain from the inside out. New legislation focused on care for veterans exemplifies the effort being put forward to make it a key treatment for service members and veterans with TBIs and/or PTSD.
According to a 2016 report by the American Academy of Neurology, "Hyperbaric oxygen and hyperbaric air have demonstrated therapeutic effects on" mild TBI and persistent post-concussion syndrome (PPCS) symptoms "and can alleviate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms secondary to a brain injury in 5 out of 5 peer-reviewed clinical trials." The report, titled "Hyperbaric Oxygen: B-Level Evidence in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials," states, "It would be a great loss to clinical medicine to ignore the large body of evidence collected so far that consistently concludes that HBO [hyperbaric oxygen] is effective in treating brain injuries."
THE NEW NORM
In a May 2017 report by online news resource PRWeb, it is revealed Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana have all passed legislation to create programs for service members so they can receive HBOT as a treatment for their TBIs and/or PTSD.
The report, titled "USMC, Indiana, Texas and Oklahoma Making Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Available to Service Members with TBI/PTSD/Concussion," states how Indiana's legislation, which was signed into law in April 2017, “follows a long effort by veterans in Indiana to treat brain-wounded Indiana veterans with oxygen-under-pressure, a safe and effective standard of care for brain injuries in numerous countries—but not yet in the US.”
Not only could HBOT heal the brain, but the article points out it also “has been shown to dramatically reduce the number of drugs that brain-wounded veterans need to recuperate and return to a more normal quality of life denied them with episodic and ineffective DOD/VA attempts.”
In Texas, a similar bill known as the Veterans Recovery Pilot Program, or HB271, which provides hyperbaric oxygen treatment to eligible veterans suffering from a TBI or PTSD, was signed by the governor a mere days after the PRWeb piece was published and will go into effect in September of this year.
Both Indiana and Texas' HBOT initiatives follow a similar pro-HBOT legislative effort in Oklahoma, which passed the Oklahoma Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Recovery Act of 2014.
The U.S. Marines, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, are also now allowing active-duty Marines to participate in a study by Louisiana State University investigating the use of HBOT to treat mild TBIs and PPCS related to either blunt or blast injuries, according to PRWeb.
As local governments and branches of the U.S. Military share the positive effects of HBOT, awareness and positive momentum towards a new, more effective, method in treating brain injuries grows, we are hopeful that HBOT will become part of the new normal in TBI and concussion treatment.
Interested in learning more? Find out additional information about HBOT as a TBI/concussion treatment for both service members and civilians.