Because traumatic brain injury (TBI) is responsible for a significant proportion of injuries and deaths worldwide, researchers have focused intently on discovering innovative ways to minimize brain damage and increase the likelihood of recovery after TBI. Recent clinical trials suggest that oxygen therapy may be a promising tool for increasing oxygen supply to the brain after injury, which may help to protect and heal the nervous system.
Clinicians typically use two types of oxygen therapy. Patients who are treated with normobaric oxygen therapy (NBO) receive high concentrations of oxygen through a facemask, while those who receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) breathe 100% oxygen while resting in a pressure-controlled chamber. Both types of oxygen therapy are considered safe and widely available, but they may have different effects and outcomes for TBI treatment.
A recent study in China investigated the difference between NBO and HBO therapies as treatments for TBI and other central nervous system injuries, such as stroke and spinal cord injury. Researchers scanned existing literature about oxygen therapy and identified 25 relevant studies that were suitable for analysis. They found that:
- TBI patients who received NBO showed improvement in reperfusion rate. In other words, they more successfully experienced a return of blood flow to the brain.
- After receiving HBO, patients experienced significantly reduced TBI severity, and they were less likely to die as a result of their injuries.
- NBO may improve patients’ brain metabolism, or the brain’s ability to process sugars and nutrients as energy in order to function.
TBI and other central nervous system injuries can have devastating effects, including permanent disability and death. Oxygen therapies are a safe, promising method for improving outcomes after central nervous system injuries and ensuring that patients experience a higher quality of life in the months and years following injury.
Deng Z, Chen W, Jin J, et al. The neuroprotection effect of oxygen therapy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice. (2018).