It's a tragic scenario that unfolds far too often in emergency rooms here in Pennsylvania and across the country. A patient shows up to the local emergency room complaining of head pain. However, the emergency room physician simply dismisses the pain as a run-of-the-mill headache and neglects to run the necessary tests. Consequently, the patient suffers a permanently disabling stroke since the drugs/surgical procedures that could have otherwise prevented this irreversible injury are administered much too late.
Interestingly, researchers in Israel recently conducted a study which may give much-needed hope to those stroke victims left with irreversible brain damage.
The study, published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, theorized that exposing stroke victims to high levels of oxygen would serve to stimulate the healing process in inactive neurons and rebuild neuronal connections. In other words, high levels of oxygen could enhance the abilities of the brain to repair itself.
In order to test this theory, the scientists gathered 74 volunteers whose post-stroke conditions were not showing signs of improvement and who had suffered a stroke within the previous six to 36 months. From here, they divided the volunteers into two groups and gave them hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is typically administered in high-pressure chambers designed to increase oxygen levels tenfold.
The first group received HBOT every day for two months, while the second group received HBOT over a two-month period in 40 two-hour sessions five times a week.
Amazingly, the researchers noted significant and measurable improvement in the neurological functions of many of the patients, including increased sensation, paralysis reversal and speech improvement.
The researchers predicted that HBOT treatment could conceivably improve the quality of life for countless stroke patients, giving them a much-needed measure of independence.
While this study is certainly very encouraging, it's important to remember that 1) these results have to be subjected to more rigorous testing within the scientific community, and 2) that the scientists weren't able to completely reverse the permanent brain damage. Meanwhile, we know for a fact that hospitals all over the country already have tools at their disposal that enable physicians to help mitigate the irreversible damage of strokes or prevent them altogether. When those tools are not used properly or in a timely fashion, and patients suffer as a result, someone should be held to account.
Please visit our website to learn more about stroke misdiagnoses.
Source: Israel21c.org, "Oxygen chamber can boost brain repair," Abigail Klein Leichman, Feb. 3, 2013
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