Hyperbaric medicine, also known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), is the medical use of oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. The theory is that by saturating the body with oxygen that it may then reach areas of the brain which otherwise may be receiving lower amounts of oxygen, and that it can decrease inflammation and speed healing.
Studies in 2009, 2010 and in 2011 compared HBOT to a placebo treatment in children with autistic disorder. Two types of assessments were used to evaluate the treatment. No differences were found between the HBOT group and the placebo group on any of the outcome measures. Despite this, many parents report that their children gained speech and overall ‘clarity’ following HBOT, but also found that the treatments needed to be repeated regularly in order to maintain those gains.
HBOT found early use in the treatment of decompression sickness, and has also shown effectiveness in treating conditions such as gas gangrene and carbon monoxide poisoning. More recent research has examined the possibility that it may also have value for other conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis, but no significant evidence has so far been confirmed. Further studies are needed in order for practitioners and families to make more conclusive decisions concerning HBOT treatments.
Nonetheless, news reports and related blogs indicate that HBOT is used in many cases with children with autism.
HBOT can cost up to $150 per hour with using anywhere from 40 to 120 hours as a part of their treatment programs. In addition, purchasing (at $8,500 – 30,000) or renting ($1,500+ per month) of the HBOT chambers is another option some families use.
HBOT is usually not covered by private health insurance or Medicaid, as it is considered experimental. Some organizations offer grants that may cover an initial HBOT evaluation and / or therapy. HBOT might also be able to be funded through Care Credit, a program that finances uncovered medical expenses over a period of time – to be repaid in installments.