Each year, thousands of Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury. In 2013, about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these are what are called mild traumatic brain injuries, or mTBIs — head injuries that don’t cause a coma. People with an mTBI typically get better within a few weeks, but for as many as 20 percent, problems can linger for months or years.
Many of these patients find themselves stuck with depression, cognitive problems, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms. Known as post-concussion syndrome, this phenomenon is often difficult to treat. Antidepressants can lift moods, painkillers can ease headaches and physical therapy may ease dizziness, but most researchers agree that these remedies don’t heal the injury within the brain.
Could oxygen do the trick? A growing group of scientists and physicians say that hyperbaric treatment, which exposes patients to pure oxygen at higher-than-normal air pressure, may work.
These patients don’t have enough oxygen to heal the injured parts of their brains. Hyperbaric treatment massively increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain. said Shai Efrati, a researcher and physician at Tel Aviv University in Israel and a leading hyperbaric scientist.