“These patients don’t have enough oxygen to heal the injured parts of their brains,” said Shai Efrati, a researcher and physician at Tel Aviv University in Israel and a leading hyperbaric scientist. “Hyperbaric treatment massively increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain.”
The nature of the human brain makes it particularly susceptible to chronic injury. The organ requires large amounts of energy under normal circumstances, and even more to heal when injured. And often, the initial trauma damages blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen. So, just as the brain needs extra resources, it faces an energy crisis. Often, Efrati and others say, injured brain cells don’t die, but may persist for years or decades, alive but hobbled. Hyperbaric therapy, he said, can return them to full function, even years after the injury.