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Hyperbaric Oxygen for Autism--Another Fraudulent Therapy? Editorial

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Autism related image Photo: Getty Images

All over the country, health care providers are offering hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT) treatments for a variety of medical disorders. HBOT has only a few medical indications including air embolism, decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning and a few bacterial infections. Now this therapy is being offered to children with autism.

Autism is a complex mental disorder and no one really knows what causes it or how to best treat it. So far, the disorder has been treated with a hodgepodge of therapies, including a variety of cognitive behavior therapies. The results of such therapies are often mediocre at best and the poor parents are left searching for alternative treatments.

Now hyperbaric oxygen has been introduced as a treatment for autism. The autistic child is placed in a pressurized chamber where pure oxygen is delivered. The doctors who offer HBOT suggested that the increase in oxygen may help reduce brain swelling and improves oxygenation of the nervous tissues. Therefore, if the brain gets more oxygen then hopefully it will work better.

So does HBOT work for autism? A few anecdotal reports indicate that some children may show more concentration, have better eye contact and appear less distracted by noise in the surrounding. They may also become more sociable. Nevertheless, all these benefits are very short lived.

However, critics of the treatment indicate that placing an autistic child in an enclosed chamber is no easy task. These children easily become claustrophobic, may need sedation, develop severe agitation, often develop burst eardrums and have elevated sinus pressures. Moreover, even seizures have been reported. Like some things in mainstream health care, many sessions of HBOT are required. This therapy is usually not covered by most health insurance carriers. At a cost of $150 or more per session, this can easily amount to a lot of money for a therapy that may not work.

There are no clinical studies that have evaluated the effects of HBOT treatment on autism. A few case reports indicate that the therapy does not work and is simply a fraud. All parents who have autistic children should first understand that there is no cure for this disorder and there is no single treatment that works in all children. HBOT is just another passing fad, and like all other treatments previously, it does have one benefit--it continues to make the providers of this bogus therapy richer and the children will continue to suffer.


Add a Comment4 Comments

I am the parent of an autistic boy who recently started HBOT treatment. I live in Ireland . He is on session 8. It is 100% oxygen administered by hood system under mild pressure. I will post updates which may be of use. So far I have not noticed anything substantial.

July 27, 2011 - 12:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

Bird Medical Devices promotes HBOT in India. India. Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber, Multiplace Hyperbaric Chambers, Portable hyperbaric chambers available. Thousands of Hyperbaric chambers are sold world wide, India has few Hyperbaric chambers. Is this due to the high cost or lack of awareness ? Medical Institutions in India do not lay emphasis on teaching hyperbaric medicine.
Approved “13” Labeled Hyperbaric Therapy Indications:
1. Air or Gas Embolism
2. Carbon Monoxide
3. Clostridal Myositis & Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene)
4. Crush Injury
5. Decompression Sickness and Arterial Gas Embolism
6. Enhancement of Healing In Selected Problems Wounds
7. Exceptional Blood Loss - Anemia
8. Intracranial Abscess
9. Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
10. Refractory Osteomyelitis
11. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments For Complications of Radiation Therapy
12. Skin Grafts And Flaps (Compromised)
13. Thermal Burns
Write to us for other "Off Label Conditions" including autism, CP, Stem cell.....,
Email: [email protected]
Call:9769 484 123 / 9769 006 123

February 12, 2011 - 2:46pm
EmpowHER Guest

I love it when people comment on issues they have neither taken the time to properly research nor have a basic understanding of. You would think before using the word fraudulent they would have investigated what the physiological effects administering Oxygen under pressure. In doing so terms such as ICAM, oxidative stress, mobilization of stem cells, glutathione would emerge. Take the time look at the therapy. Research and peer reviewed journals. There is a significant body of research that would support the use of hyperbaric oxygen in addressing autism.

The mere mention of the word fraud is significant. Look at what an "Investigative Journalist" has done with it 2011 in the lancet. It is kind of like a witch hunt don't you think. It would make one ask why did it take so long for the medical community to mount a campaign against a 12 year study Linking the MMR vaccine to autism. Usually limited trials with 12 subjects are dismissed 12 years out. The effort being put into pursuing Dr Wakefield causes one to ask if a nerve has been touched. Could the true movation is that has taken this long to affect the bottom line of the vaccine manufacturers.

Another observation, with investigators puzzled by the epidemic that is autism, and not having any idea how it is perpetuated, these so-called professionals are very quick to tell you what it is not. " Good We're not sure would suffice.

February 12, 2011 - 2:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

My son, like so many, had tremendous gains with mild HBOT. There actually have been clinical studies --search at www.pubmed.com for Dr. Dan Rossignol et al to read published peer-reviewed research. It is not a cure for autism, but it is tremendously helpful for mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and GI issues. It is not a bogus therapy. It is a medical treatment that can help on the road to recovery.
Holly Riley
mom to Quinn, age 7, recovering from autism

February 5, 2011 - 9:40am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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