Hyperbaric therapy helps veterans
There is a growing awareness across the nation that military veterans who have suffered severe traumatic brain injury and associated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have benefited from hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO).
Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation to further enhance this as a possible therapy for our wounded veterans. HBO therapy is unique compared to medications or surgery in that it provides much higher amounts of oxygen than can be breathed at home or in the hospital. This is accomplished through the use of hyperbaric chambers, which can increase the pressure of our atmosphere thereby increasing the amount of oxygen that we can breathe with each normal breath.
This significant increase in available oxygen is valuable to an injured brain. Traumatic concussions suffered by our veterans from bomb explosions can be a debilitating medical condition. Some symptoms include loss of memory, severe anxiety, depression, lack of attention, severe insomnia and headaches.
The severity of these symptoms often results in the inability to work, socialize in public and can also lead to substance abuse and severe depression. When the veteran seeks medical attention, a full neurological and psychiatric evaluation is performed and MRI studies of the brain often show no evidence of brain injury.
Medications for depression and anxiety are provided by their health care providers along with other psychiatric treatment modalities. Despite these available treatments, the veteran can remain with significant disabilities and symptoms. The suicide rate of veterans remains alarmingly high, requiring further exploration to develop new treatments that can reduce the risk of suicide and improve overall quality of life.
One of these new treatments that show promise is HBO therapy. It is safe and essentially has no side effects. The treatments are one hour in duration pressurized to 1.5 ATA, which is the same as diving in the ocean to a depth of 16.5 feet.
While resting comfortably at this pressure breathing 100% oxygen, the brain is able to have additional oxygen to perform neurological functions. The average number of treatments are 40, which typically is provided on a daily basis. During this course of treatments, the patient still remains under the care of his or her psychiatrist. HBO does not negate the need for other treatments and serves as an excellent adjunct to existing therapies. However, it has been noted that the need for medications may decrease over a period of time, thus minimizing the overall side effects of these medications.
The primary benefits noted by these patients is improvement in sleep quality, less anxiety and improved attention span to engage in daily activities.
Dr. Paul W. Buza D.O., F.A.C.N. is a board certified neurologist who specializes in hyperbaric medicine and wound care. He began practicing medicine on Brevard County in 1998.
Brevard Regional Hyperbaric Center
1698B W. Hibiscus Blvd., Melbourne
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