Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) demonstrated a significant drop in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and suicidal ideation in a new study of military personnel, according to a study published in Medical Gas Research.
Researchers enrolled 29 active-duty or retired military personnel (aged 18–65 years) with ≥1 mild-to-moderate blast traumatic brain injury (TBI) that was at minimum 1 year old. All participants had persistent post-concussion syndrome (PPCS) with or without PTSD and they were matched to a control group.
The HBOT group was compressed and decompressed in a monoplace hyperbaric chamber at 1–2 pounds per square inch per minute on 100% oxygen for 60 minutes total dive time, twice a day with a 3–4 hour surface interval 5 days a week for 40 HBOTs.
Following completion of all treatments, half (52%) of the subjects who initially met the PTSD Checklist-Military (PCL-M) for diagnosis no longer met the threshold criteria; the average reduction was 18.8 points in PCL-M. The authors write how this reduction is one of the greatest in PTSD symptoms in a 4-week period with ‘any reported treatment’.
Before and after HBOT, the researchers evaluated symptoms list, physical exam, neuropsychological and psychological tests, and SPECT brain imaging. At 6 months, results showed that compared to the controls, the treatment group had a significantly improved SPECT after 1 and 40 treatments. Seventy-five percent of the initially abnormal areas in the treated group became indistinguishable from controls.
Significant improvements in neurological exam, symptoms, IQ, memory, attention, dominant hand motor speed/dexterity, quality of life, general anxiety, PTSD, and depression were seen. Also, there was a significant reduction in the use of psychoactive medications. Additional symptomatic improvement was seen at the 6-month follow-up.
Moreover, 10 of 12 subjects who expressed suicidal ideation prior to the HBOT did not express suicidal thoughts after treatment (McNemar’s Test; P=0.012). “Combined with the effect on PPCS outcomes, HBOT represents the only reported effective treatment for the combined diagnoses of blast-induced PPCS and PTSD,” said Dr. Paul Harch, lead author and Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “The PTSD symptom reduction is one of the greatest reductions in PTSD symptoms in a four-week period with any reported treatment, and combined with the effect on PPCS outcomes, HBOT represents the only reported effective treatment for the combined diagnoses of blast-induced PPCS and PTSD.”