Hyperbaric therapy (HBOT) has found its use across a range of clinical disorders, predominantly for decompression sickness, arterial gas embolism, and healing of serious injuries.
In recent years, multiple medical studies have also suggested the efficacy of HBOT for Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD). Reportedly, HBOT was observed to help alleviate several physiological abnormalities that include mitochondrial dysfunction, cerebral hypoperfusion, oxidative stress, and inflammation.
Hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism aren’t limited to adults only. A good number of children have also shown marked improvement citing positive physiological behavior. The efficacy of HBOT is further backed by medical studies where it has worked to enhance cerebral perfusion, reverse oxidative stress markers, and reduce inflammation. However, most of these studies were uncontrolled, making it a point of criticism by medical professionals citing inconsistent findings.
In the worst scenario, even after one has realized hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism, it is still due for approval by the FDA. Thus, HBOT continues to be a less-valuable, non-accessible, and expensive treatment option for autism patients.
This post aims to discuss the scope and limitations of hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism, and everything else that plays a significant role.
The relation between cerebral hypoperfusion in ASD and HBOT
Cerebral hypoperfusion bears a strong correlation to autistic behaviors, like a desire for routine and repetitive behavior, impairments in processing facial expressions as well as emotions, and a much-reduced development of language. Also, a much lower rate of cerebral perfusion has been observed with an increase in age, especially in children, which makes way for predominant autistic symptoms.
While tracing hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism, it was found in multiple studies how HBOT helped in improving cerebral perfusion, when used at a lower pressure (ranging anywhere between 1.3 ATM -1.5 ATM). The results were measured and recorded by taking into account pre and post scans for neurological conditions, that also included cases of chronic and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The HBOT-spect scans post-treatment depicted more than 80% of ASD patients showing improvement across temporal lobe perfusion. Also, more than 85 percent demonstrated improvement across frontal lobe perfusion and another 75 percent across other areas of the brain. The studies took into consideration multiple clinical evaluations, large size sample study along with SPECT imaging.
Neuroinflammation and effects of HBOT
Some recent studies favor the idea how individuals with ASD are known to manifest neuroinflammatory symptoms, along with gastrointestinal or immune dysregulation.
Reportedly, more than four hundred publications have gone ahead to implicate immunity abnormalities and inflammation in ASD patients, out of which more than thirty publications talked about gastrointestinal inflammation (showing similar characteristics like inflammatory bowel disease), and sixty-five laid stress of neuroinflammation.
In such cases, HBOT reportedly showed a high level of anti-inflammatory properties across both animal and human studies, where pro-inflammatory cytokines production was noted.
In another co-related study to establish hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism, a much-reduced level of neopterin was noticed. Strengthening the notion was another systematic review report tracing the efficacy of HBOT for treating inflammatory bowel disease.
As such, the core effect of HBOT playing an important role to treat inflammation is to be mediated via pressure-related effects and not by the amount of oxygen released.
There have been quite a few trials, where a much higher frequency of HBOT sessions have (more than ten a week) showed significant improvement for autism. Such findings are consistent with other studies related to neurological conditions like TBI that demand a higher number of HBO sessions each month (at least 40 of them).
There remains a need to consider HBOT parameters, oxygen, and pressure level, especially in children with autism to determine optimal treatment choices. A fruitful way to go about it would be targeting subgroups with certain physiological abnormalities drawing maximum benefits.
A human brain undergoes a complex development process. As such, any neuroimaging and physiological change in ASD patients undergoing HBOT may probably precede both intellectual and developmental enhancements. Some studies examining HBOT induced physiological changes reported substantial changes observed over a month. Nevertheless, the duration is way too short to be able to quantify the all-around efficacy of HBOT for autism.
HBOT for autism at a pre-decided pressure (not more than 1.5 ATM, unless required) is generally being reported to enhance cerebral perfusion and bring down inflammatory markers. Such a level is maintained especially to stay clear from interfering with oxidative stress markers.
While a majority of studies directed at hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism reports improvement across multiple behavioral domains, a lot of them were uncontrolled. No denying there has been a couple of trials involving a control group followed by recent reports that show a few distinctions between them. Collectively speaking, all such studies and trial reports make way to re-establish hyperbaric therapy benefits for Autism, punctuated by minimal and
To conclude, HBOT is a potentially safe treatment option for autism, although there remains scope for further implications. Thus, it is only expected of future approaches to consider using standard measurement tools (tracking behavioral patterns), as well as biomarkers of physiology across controlled studies.