LANSING, Mich. (WILX) – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been around since the 1940′s, when it was first used to treat scuba divers who had decompression sickness.

More recently, it’s become a successful treatment to help burn victims and heal wounds. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment, patients breathe in pure oxygen with air pressure levels up to three times higher than average. It’s been used on a wide variety of problems and doctors are now using it treat ulcerative colitis.

“Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease of the colon,” said Dr. Parambir Dulai. “Basically, your body’s immune system thinks the bacteria in your colon are bad and they keep trying to fight them off. And the bystander in the whole process is your colon that suffers.”

Medications that suppress the immune system work for a while, but 70% of people will lose response to them within a few years, and many will need surgery.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy just drives a ton of oxygen into tissues by giving 100% oxygen,” Dulai said. “It’s just driving it into the colon instead of other tissues.”

In a phase two study, patients were placed in the chamber for 90 minutes. After five days, their bleeding was gone. The effects lasted for more than three months.

“You’re talking about people who might need to lose their colon and you’re preventing that and immediately they’re getting better,” Dulai said. “They’re feeling better. They just feel more energetic. They feel that sense of relief. And I think it just gives them hope.”

Later this year, Dulai hopes to begin an 18-site phase three clinical trial. He hopes what they find will be especially helpful for patients who live in rural areas and don’t have access to larger research facilities.

Article cited by WILX10

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