Autism treatment options have been somewhat limited. These options generally have included the use of one or more strategies geared toward improving the functionality of a patient with autism. Strategies such as behavior management and community support groups are relatively common as a means to combat the symptoms of autism. Speech and occupational therapies have also been used to improve the quality of life for an autistic patient. But with such a wide range of variables, these treatments may not have lasting effects.
The symptoms of autism are quite varied and range from very slight to severe on an individual case by case basis. However, some of the most common symptoms include difficulty with communication, the inability to form meaningful social relationships, and a general lack of interest in active play. These symptoms are usually seen at a very early age, as a child begins to experiment with language and a variety of social settings. Autism has also been linked to an increase in anxiety and depression. All of these symptoms can occur at varying levels due to the wide spectrum of this disorder. As a result, each case requires individualized treatment options.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autism provides a safe way to allow more oxygen to enter the body. This process benefits an autistic patient by enabling the body to circulate oxygen more effectively and efficiently. It promotes blood flow to the brain and reduces inflammation of tissue. Hyperbaric therapy has also been shown to improve immune system function. It increases the production of new cells and improves neurotransmitter abnormalities. Hyperbaric therapy for autism is extremely low risk and includes a multitude of benefits. These benefits can include improvement in:
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for decades as an alternative treatment option for a diverse collection of infections, ailments, and conditions. It has been used to effectively treat both children and adults with an amazingly high success rate. Several studies have shown that hyperbaric treatment for autism significantly improves cognitive awareness, social interaction, and language reception. All of these therapeutic benefits have been achieved with very little to no side effects on patients of all ages
While showing good results throughout the United States and the rest of the world, hyperbaric oxygen treatment is still in the research stage and not yet an approved treatment by the FDA.
Hyperbaric treatment for children with autism: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.
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62 children with autism recruited from 6 centers, ages 2-7 years (mean 4.92 +/- 1.21), were randomly assigned to 40 hourly treatments of either hyperbaric treatment at 1.3 atmosphere (atm) and 24% oxygen ("treatment group", n = 33) or slightly pressurized room air at 1.03 atm and 21% oxygen ("control group", n = 29). Outcome measures included Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale, Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC), and Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC). After 40 sessions, mean physician CGI scores significantly improved in the treatment group compared to controls in overall functioning (p = 0.0008), receptive language (p < 0.0001), social interaction (p = 0.0473), and eye contact (p = 0.0102); 9/30 children (30%) in the treatment group were rated as "very much improved" or "much improved" compared to 2/26 (8%) of controls (p = 0.0471); 24/30 (80%) in the treatment group improved compared to 10/26 (38%) of controls (p = 0.0024). Mean parental CGI scores significantly improved in the treatment group compared to controls in overall functioning (p = 0.0336), receptive language (p = 0.0168), and eye contact (p = 0.0322). On the ABC, significant improvements were observed in the treatment group in total score, irritability, stereotypy, hyperactivity, and speech (p < 0.03 for each), but not in the control group. In the treatment group compared to the control group, mean changes on the ABC total score and subscales were similar except a greater number of children improved in irritability (p = 0.0311). On the ATEC, sensory/cognitive awareness significantly improved (p = 0.0367) in the treatment group compared to the control group. Post-hoc analysis indicated that children over age 5 and children with lower initial autism severity had the most robust improvements. Hyperbaric treatment was safe and well-tolerated. Children with autism who received hyperbaric treatment at 1.3 atm and 24% oxygen for 40 hourly sessions had significant improvements in overall functioning, receptive language, social interaction, eye contact, and sensory/cognitive awareness compared to children who received slightly pressurized room air.
Treating Children with Autism Using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has a well-known anti-inflammatory effect21, and has been shown to measurably improve immune function22. This is important because studies have suggested that there is a genetic relationship between autism and immune system dysregulation.23 Multiple studies have shown that oxidative stress can be significantly reduced with HBOT through the upregulation of antioxident enzymes. HBOT increases blood flow in the brain in areas where blood flow is depressed, improves the function of existing mitochondria cells, and increases the production of new cells, as well as improving neurotransmitter abnormalities.24 All of these results are crucial in the comprehensive treatment of a child with autism. Clearly one of the most important factors to consider when treating these fragile young patients is that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one of the safest and lowest risk medical treatments available today. One of the best proofs of this fact may be Dr. James Neubrander’s clinic in Edison, New Jersey, through which over 25,000 hours of hyperbaric therapy have been safely and effectively provided to children with autism. The safety factor is widely recognized by those who assign and evaluate medical risk. As Paul Harch, MD notes in his book, The Oxygen Revolution, “Possibly one measure of the (safety of hyperbaric oxygen therapy) is the minimal rate ascribed by malpractice insurance companies to HBOT, which falls into one of their lowest ranking (risk) categories.”25 Perhaps the most comprehensive review of the medical science supporting the use of HBOT to treat autism was performed at the University of Virginia by Daniel Rossignol, MD,26 and was published in 2006. In it, Dr. Rossignol reviewed the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on the most common pathophysiology found in autism, including neuro inflammation, gastrointestinal inflammation, cerebral perfusion, detoxification enzyme function, immune system dysregulation, and six other commonly affected areas. In all of these areas of pathophysiology critical to the resolution of autism in children, HBOT was found to have a clinically important positive effect. 21. Akin ML, Gulluoglu BM, Uluutku H, Erenoglu C, Elbuken E, Yildirim S, Celenk T, Hyperbaric oxygen improves healing in experimental rat colitis. Undersea Hyperb Med 2002;29(4):279-85 22. Saito K, Tanaka Y, Ota T, Eto S, Yamashita U. Suppressive effect of hyperbaric oxygenation on immune responses of normal and autoimmune mice. Clin Exp Immunol 1991;86(2):322-7 23. Becker KG, Freidlin B, Simon RM, Comparative Genomics of Autism, Tourette syndrome and autoimmune inflammatory disorders. Http://www.grc.nia.nih.gov/branches/rrb/dna/pubs/cgoatad.pdf. 4/23/2003 (accessed 10/27/2007) 24. Veltkamp R, Siebing DA, Heiland S, Schoenffeldt-Varas P, et al. (March 2005) Hyperbaric oxygen induces rapid protection against focal cerebral ischemia. Brain Research 1037;1-2:134- 138 doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2005.01.006 25. Harch, P.G., McCullough V, (2007) The Oxygen Revolution. New York, Hatherleigh Press 26. Rossignol DA, Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might improve certain pathophysiological findings in autism, Med Hypotheses (2006), doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2006.09.064