What You Should Know About Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Patients

What You Should Know About Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Patients

If you’re looking for a treatment to improve movement after stroke, as well as other stroke side effects, then oxygen therapy could be for you.

What Is Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Patients?

Oxygen therapy, formally known as Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy (HBOT), exposes you to pure oxygen, which increases the amount of oxygen in the brain.

HBOT is administered in a clear chamber where patients lie for about 60-90 minutes breathing 100% oxygen.

A Little Background Info

To understand how oxygen therapy works, you need to understand how neuroplasticity works too.

During neuroplasticity, the surrounding parts of the brain take over the responsibility of the damaged part of the brain by building new connections between brain cells.

In order to trigger this rewiring process, you need to stimulate the brain through repetitive practice.

For example, if you need to regain leg movement, then you can only trigger neuroplasticity by practicing leg movements over and over.

Repetitive practice is the essential ingredient in effective rehab.

Now, how does oxygen therapy fit into that process?

How Oxygen Therapy Works

According to Science Daily, the brain consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen – but that’s only enough to operate a small percentage of brain cells at any given point in time.

When the brain is busy rebuilding connections through the process of neuroplasticity, it takes up even more oxygen.

Oxygen therapy provides extra oxygen to the brain, essentially working as ‘brain food,’ which speeds up the process of neuroplasticity.

While repetitive practice is the primary driver of neuroplasticity, HBOT can play a secondary role by rapidly speeding up the process.

So, there’s no escaping the hard work of rehab – but HBOT can provide a potentially powerful boost.

What Stroke Deficits Does It Treat?

Oxygen therapy is currently being used to improve movement after stroke – even for survivors suffering from post-stroke paralysis.

(Read: Stroke Paralysis Treatments You Probably Didn’t Know About)

Some studies report that patients experience benefits like reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language, which can do wonders for a survivor’s sense of independence.

Who Can Try Oxygen Therapy?

Stroke survivors can try HBOT at any stage in their recovery. It doesn’t matter if your stroke was a few months or many years ago; although most studies were conducted in the early stages.

However, Dr. Efrati has seen improvement in patients up to 20 years post stroke – and he’s the Director of the Sagol Center for Hyberbaric Medicine and Research; which, according to TedX, is the largest most occupied hyperbaric center in the world!

So, take it from a doctor who spends his entire work-life with HBOT.

Oxygen therapy has the potential to help stroke survivors at any stage post-stroke.

What Are the Side Effects?

Like all emerging treatments, HBOT comes with some risks.

Surprisingly, the greatest risk with HBOT actually comes from the treatment equipment. Since compressed pure oxygen is a fire hazard, malpractice in a HBOT chamber can lead to explosion and even death.

For this reason, it’s important to find a VERY credible HBOT administrator!

What Do the Studies Say?

Because HBOT is new, the studies so far are VERY MIXED.

Some of the studies say that it DOES NOT work:

“Although our HBO protocol appears feasible and safe, it does not appear to be beneficial and may be harmful in patients with acute ischemic stroke.” – Daniel E. Rusyniak, MD, et al.

“The overall evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in any subgroup of stroke patients. To determine if hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke provides any benefit and that these outweigh potential harms, good quality studies are needed.” –Susan Carson, et al.

Some of the studies say that it DOES work:

“The results of HBO therapy in the treatment of patients with stroke, atherosclerosis, cerebral palsy, intracranial pressure, headache, and brain and spinal cord injury are promising and warrant further investigation.” –Noori S. AL-Waili, et al.

“The results indicate that HBOT can lead to significant neurological improvements in post stroke patients even at chronic late stages.” –Shai Efrati, et al.

In that study, HBOT was given to 30 stroke survivors for two months. After these two months, the HBOT survivors improved significantly more than those who didn’t receive the oxygen therapy – and they reported a better quality of life.

What all this means:

Currently, oxygen therapy is hit-or-miss. Try it at your own risk.

Although you may find yourself thinking, “What’s the point?”, there are many survivors who have completely lost hope, and solutions like HBOT can give them the boost they need to continue recovery.

Cruise on Down to the Comments

Do you know someone who has tried oxygen therapy for stroke recovery? Do you want to try it yourself?

Share your comments and questions with us in the comments section below!

  • Marie Frisch-Koehler

    I have had 5treatments so far and have five more scheduled I have more movement in my arm since the treatment so will see after I am done with it

    • Flint

      That’s so great to hear Marie! I’m glad it’s working for you 🙂

  • Maretta Casey

    Will hyperbaric oxygen therapy work if you take the treatment for 1 hour five days a week. Or do you have to take Hbot for 1 1/2 hours five days a week?

    • Flint

      Hey Maretta! That would be a question best suited for your doctor or neurologist! They can assess your unique situation and determine what’s safe for you.

  • Marie Frisch-Koehler

    I had hyperbaric treatment now ten times and every time after that my fingers move more so I will continue to go

    • Flint

      Hey Marie! I’m really glad to hear that it’s helping! It has been about a month since you posted that comment. How has treatment been going?

  • Debbie McCright

    I have scheduled my father for stem cell therapy with hyperbaric treatments to follow. I am nervous that I am giving “false” hope for ANY recovery. I see it as “last resort” to the traditional therapy that he is given 3 days/week. He is improving slowly with the traditional therapy but see him waning week after week with hopelessness.

    • Flint

      Hey Debbie! Those are very advanced treatment options, and I am excited to see if they will help! And I personally don’t think that you’re giving false hope. All hope is the good kind of hope during stroke recovery. I know that traditional therapy can produce slow results sometimes, but here’s an article that explains how to help speed things along: https://www.flintrehab.com/2016/benefit-stroke-rehab-exercises/

      It also sounds like you may enjoy our stroke recovery book called Healing & Happiness After Stroke. It talks about the mental game of recovery and provides ways to keep motivation and self-esteem up during times like these. Here’s the link if it resonates: https://www.flintrehab.com/product/healing-and-happiness-after-stroke-book/

      Best of luck to your father!

      • Debbie McCright

        Thank you Flint. I am going to look for that book. He definitely gained, if nothing else, a new level of hope and determination. The stem cell treatment went well and is back home doing his “dives”, as we like to call them, in his chamber. I have seen some little positive changes in his ability to speak and cognition. I would recommend the stem cell treatment for anyone with ability to travel and have it done. The advantages highly outweigh the risks. I am excited to see what the next few months have in store for him.

        • Denise

          Debbie,

          Which facility did you receive the stem cell treatment at? Did they harvest cells from his fat? How many treatments did he receive? How much do you think it has helped? Where was he in his recovery? I am desperately seeking treatment options for my Dad. He is 18 months post stroke. Best of luck in his recovery!

          • Jna

            Debbie,
            Like Denise, I am seeking options for my sister. She is only 52 and has teen sons to raise. Right now she is in a nursing home facility because she is unable to walk or use her arms much. I am desperately searching for treatment protocols to help her regain her independence. Congratulations and best wishes to you and your dad for his continued recovery.

          • Denise

            JNA,

            Sorry to hear about your sister. There is currently a nationwide double blind stem cell clinical trial going on that has had great results. It is being conducted by Stanford and candidates must be 6 to 60 months post stroke. Google SB623 stem cells and check it out on clinicaltrials.gov. My Dad recently went through the procedure, but we’re pretty certain he received the placebo, so we’re back to square one. Best of luck in your journey.

          • Jna

            Thank you Denise. I had heard about the trials but unfortunately my sister was ruled out as a candidate because she had another, less severe stroke in the past. Seeing this post, I thought that treatment had moved past the trials. I pray they make it available soon. I’m sorry you didn’t receive the outcome that you’d hoped for but don’t give up! I’m excited about the additional treatment options being explored such as HBOT and even Botox. My sister had her first Botox injections three weeks ago in her hand and arm. It helps with the spasticity so she can flex and stretch them more as we try exercises with her. I really want to try the HBOT if we can. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

          • Debbie McCright

            Jna, so sorry to hear about your sis. I hope you can find some treatment that will help her. As a mom of two boys, my heart breaks for her.

          • Debbie McCright

            Hi Denise. I took my dad to Trustem, just north of Chicago. He was almost 24 months post stroke and did only one treatment. It is costly. His recovery had slowed considerably and had not regained ability to talk, walk or comprehend. Post stem cell treatment he is comprehending much more and speaking more words. They did harvest from belly fat. Good luck with your dad. Pls keep in touch.

        • Tina Penner

          Hi Debbie! Your dad’s progress sounds encouraging! I’ve been looking into HBOT and heard a little about stem cell treatment. Do you feel getting BOTH treatments working together was the way to go? Does your dad use the SOFT CHAMBER from home? What is a ballpark cost for stem cell treatment, and is it a ‘one time’ treatment or is more than one needed? I would love any info from your journey with your dads treatments you could share! Even though it’s been 7yrs since my stroke, after several months in a wheelchair I’m able to walk (using a walker) short distances, not like ‘around the market’ and such. But along with my physical disabilities is my ‘brain fog’ , it’s like i’m me on the inside but can’t seem to express my thoughts in conversations like normal, as if my personality is gone. I guess what i’m asking is if it seemed to help your dad mentally also?
          Best wishes in his road to recovery!

          • Debbie McCright

            Hi Tina, I am glad to hear you are realizing some symptom recovery still. I always wondered what it was like for my dad since he seems to understand what we are asking of him but can’t talk to tell us anything that he is experiencing. The cell treatment that my dad received was $11,000

          • Debbie McCright

            Hi Tina, I am happy for you and encouraged to hear you are still experiencing some symptom recovery after 7 years. It is hard to know with my dad as he can not talk and tell us what he is experiencing. His cell treatment was $11,000 and at that cost only 1 treatment was an option. We were told at the clinic that several treatments can be done and the more the better. He did, in fact, purchase a soft, wheelchair chamber to have at home as there was no other option in his area for HBOT treatments without FDA approval. The chamber was, all in, about $19,000 but well worth the cost if ANY improvements are a possibility. We have noticed cognitive improvements and more words seems to come to him. He has a WONDERFUL young woman that comes to the house 3 days/week and works with him with walking and talking. He is now singing songs and seems to be more positive about his recovery. I wish you the best in your recovery and if you have any other questions please do ask. Let me/us know how you are doing with your journey.

          • Tina Penner

            Thank you so much for the info! I am thinking of buying my own within the next 6ish months, and i will let you all know how it’s going 🙂

          • Debbie McCright

            Good luck Tina. I’ll be thinking about you and sending good vibes your way.

    • Julie Jean

      Any update on how Hyperbaric treatments went? I’m hoping your fathers recovery is going well.

      • Debbie McCright

        Hi Julie Jean, the stem cell treatment was “smooth sailing”. Lots of bruising but right after the treatment we went out for dinner. My dad is all in with the hyperbarics now and is encouraged as he is recognizing his right side more. His peripheral sight is getting better and now blurts out words that he is thinking. It is still slow but with each and every HB treatment he comes out with loads of energy and full of smiles and optimism.

        • Donna_J

          What kind of stem cell treatment did he have? Where do they offer stem cell treatment? Does insurance cover it? My brother had a massive heart attack and bilateral stroke a little over a year ago and we are looking for anything that will help.

  • Ray Harvey

    I’ve had hyperbaric oxygen therapy with great results, had 3 treatments of 30 days each, 1 hour a day at 2.5 atmospheres. I started in wheelchair and completely mute. Within a week i was walking to the chamber. I started talking within a month. Still improving my walking and speech. My arm and hand are a work in progress. Go for it

  • Rhonda Baker Parero

    My husband is 2 1/2 years post stroke. He was only 53 when he had the stroke, which greatly damaged his right cerebellum. He continues to struggle. The greatest struggle is with chronic dizziness and balance problems. Could hyberbaric oxygen therapy help him?

  • Kelly Kelso

    I am wondering about the cost of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Has anyone’s insurance company covered the treatments? What is the ballpark cost for each session? It’s great to hear of people’s success stories!

  • Tina Penner

    I have been looking into HBOT and wondering if the ‘SOFT CHAMBER’ that are available for home use deliver adequate ‘depth’ to be therapeutic for someone that is post stroke or is it just a scam? Thanks, any info would be appreciated!

  • Tina Penner

    Hi Debbie and EVERYONE! Your dad’s progress sounds encouraging! I’ve been looking into HBOT and heard a little about stem cell treatment. Do you feel getting BOTH treatments working together was the way to go? Does your dad use the SOFT CHAMBER from home? What is a ballpark cost for stem cell treatment, and is it a ‘one time’ treatment or is more than one needed? I would love any info from your journey with your dads treatments you could share! Even though it’s been 7yrs since my stroke, after several months in a wheelchair I’m able to walk (using a walker) short distances, not like ‘around the market’ and such. But along with my physical disabilities is my ‘brain fog’ , it’s like i’m ‘me’ on the inside but can’t seem to express my thoughts in conversations, like normal, as if my personality is gone. I guess what i’m asking is if it seemed to help your dad or any of you mentally also?
    Best wishes on the road to recovery! P.S. I would love any type of advice from anyone!