The Case for Hyperbaric Oxygen

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In normal circumstances, one would simply scratch their head and wonder what all the fuss is about treating Veterans with PTSD and/or TBI with hyperbaric oxygen or HBOT.   Countries all over the world have been using this relatively inexpensive form of therapy to treat their own military, but the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) continues to insist that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to support the benefits of HBOT.

hyperbaric oxygen chamber

In the February, 2016 edition of Veterans of Foreign Wars (“VFW”), author Janie Blankenship rekindles the debate with a provocative article entitled “Alternative Treatment for PTSD, TBI Stirs Debate.”    SFTT strongly believes that many Veterans receiving HBOT have shown dramatic improvement in brain activity and their ability to return to a “normal” life without the side affects of many potent prescription drugs.

In any event, the VFW article suggests that there is enough evidence – both scientific and anecdotal – to refute VA claims that it is simply “black magic.”  In fact, Dr. Charles Hoge with the Center of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research claims that tests for HBOT were “disappointing” and goes on to say in the article that:

Factors such as enhanced expectancy, conditioning, the authoritative context of care and social reinforcement likely contributed as well, perhaps as the prolonged break from the stresses of work.  Hyperbaric Oxygen does not work, but the ritual of the intervention does.”

Indeed, it is quite remarkable that Dr. Hoge could claim that “Hyperbaric Oxygen does not work, but the ritual of the intervention does.”     If I were a Veteran in urgent need of therapy, I would welcome the “intervention” process as much as the treatment.  If the process works but we don’t know why, please sign me up!  Have the often lethal cocktail of prescription drugs prescribed by the VA proved any better?  I think not.

Dr. Paul Harch, who is quoted frequently by SFTT, notes in the article that “my generation of doctors thinks this (sic HBOT) is a fraudulent theory.”   Indeed, Dr. Xavier Figueroa, a recent convert, claims that there is “extreme bias against HBOT in the medical field.”

While the VA, DoD and many in the medical profession continue to try to validate the obvious, many States are taking action into their own hands and approving HBOT treatments for Veterans.

The two-month treatment costs around $4,400, according to the VFW article and States, Insurance companies and charitable organizations are taking action into their own hands to help Veterans.  Found below are some of the recent initiatives:

– At Hyperbaric of Sun Valley in Hailey, Idaho, veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD receive free treatment;

– At Patriot Clinics, Inc. in Oklahoma City, veterans receive HBOT for free;

– Healing Arizona Veterans, based in Tucson, has paid for 20 veterans in that state to receive HBOT;

– Lawmakers in Oklahoma have recognized the benefits of HBOT and signed a treatment and recovery act into law in May, 2014;

– Similar bills (like Oklahoma) are being considered in Indiana, Texas, Kentucky and Arkansas.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the VA would play ball and help States establish effective HBOT programs for Veterans.  I guess that is far too much to expect.

Thank you VFA and Janie Blankenship for this useful article.

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