Treatment for Chronic Inflammation Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Lyme Disease, and other Chronic Conditions
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment which involves breathing enriched air in a pressurized compartment (the hyperbaric chamber). This treatment has been used for many decades for diving sickness (“the bends”), for enhancement of wound healing, such as in diabetic or other vascular ulcers, in severe anaerobic infections such as gas gangrene and deadly strep infections. It has also been used effectively in other types of infections such as Lyme disease, complications of AIDS, in strokes, in bone diseases including non-uniting fractures, in migraine, in Raynaud’s and other vascular and inflammatory disorders, and most relevant to our practice, in autism-related disorders.
At our office , hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves entering the hyperbaric chamber where oxygen from a concentrator is pumped in. Young children usually go into the chamber with a parent. The oxygen is administered via a mask. Even if your child will not wear a mask, there still can be a benefit. Treatments are generally one hour long and may be given as often as twice daily and as infrequently as once weekly. A common target in treatments is a 20 dive series to evaluate efficacy and response.
Many children with autism spectrum disorders benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Some have experienced improvement in language and others, in fine motor skills. Many of our patients with Lyme Disease have also seen benefit.
The risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are extremely low, particularly when oxygen concentrations less than 100% are used. The main problem people experience is a pressure on the eardrums similar to experience when flying, and claustrophobia, particularly in some adults. Benefits may be noted very quickly within one or two dives, increasing with more time in the chamber, or may be slowly progressive over many hours. Improvements in wound healing and pain may be notable after 1 to 2 hours of treatment. Likewise, acute stroke victims may show prompt improvements upon initiating treatment.
Chronic inflammatory conditions such as autistic encephalopathy may show early promising signs of improvement, but require a longer series of dives to obtain substantial gains. There is no lab test to predict who will respond best to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, though if there is a known circulatory problem the likelihood of benefit is very significant. Autistic children who are more severely impacted seem to have a higher response rate than high-functioning children, though the anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant effects of hyperbaric oxygen may make an important contribution to healing, even in the high-functioning children. Research shows good evidence that HBOT induces antioxidant enzymes, which are neuroprotective.
We have installed a medium pressure hyperbaric chamber in our office in order to make this promising treatment available for all of our interested patients. Often doing just a few dives will give you a sense of whether substantial benefit is likely to occur with ongoing treatment. We recommend a trial of 4-6 one hour dives to evaluate this treatment for you or your child. For children on the autism spectrum disorder, we recommend a series of 20 sequential one hour dives, with a break on weekends. Our hourly rate is $75 per hour, with a discount offered when you pre-pay for 20 dives. Come check out the chamber for the low introductory price of $25 for your first dive!