Can brain damage be reversed?

Lydia Fleming
July 22, 2017

Both normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen-rich environments activate genes that promote cell survival and reduce inflammation. HBOT involves administering oxygen to a patient in a sealed chamber, pressurised at a level higher than that of the atmosphere.

The saga began with every parent's nightmare.

On the day of the near-drowning, the child's mother found her, pulled her out and performed CPR until doctors at her local hospital in Fayetteville, Ark., were ultimately able to revive her two hours later after she also suffered cardiac arrest.

The little girl showed marked improvements in alertness and was able to laugh, move her arms and grasp with her left hand.

"After she had the treatment here and the supplemental oxygen, we repeated the MRI at home and we were shocked", Dr. Harch said.

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Recovery can happen because of the brain's plasticity, or flexibility, meaning that different brain areas can take over for those that have been damaged, Cifu said.

When they did, Kristal said there was an immediate change in her daughter.

Carlson still has a mild residual brain injury but the two major parts that had a brain injury, the cortical and white matter atrophy, are almost completely reversed. "When she first started taking those first steps, they were so shaky but she was so determined and when we saw that determination in her we knew that she was going to be okay". She had suffered severe injury to her brain's grey matter, which plays a major role in allowing the body's central nervous system to function properly.

Harch was called in as a consultant, and through a combined treatment of normobaric oxygen and hyperbaric oxygen therapies, the young patient is now showing signs of tissue regrowth.

Harch added that it was impossible to tell from Eden's case whether the combination of normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen therapy was necessarily more effective than hyperbaric oxygen therapy on its own.

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At the 78 day post-drowning mark, the patient and her family traveled to New Orleans, where she began receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Now, just months after the incident, doctors have been able to successfully return her ability to walk and talk. Her thinking processes had improved and her motor skills were restored close to where they were before the accident.

And subsequent MRI scans confirmed what Harch suspected: "The shrinkage of her brain had nearly completely re-grown", he said. "All of this tissue was re-grown and it has never been seen before". "But you have a growing child, a hormone-rich brain and stimulation in this setting".

As miraculous as Eden's experience was, it's important to note that it's just a single case-report.

Still, Harch believes the therapy could be useful, and he doesn't believe this positive outcome is age-dependent.

"In fact, there are now four other trials that have come out, all in adults, that indicate that you can reduce the death rate of acute brain injury patients by almost 50 to 60 percent if you apply this in the first week after injury", Harch continued."So I want to encourage doctors to look at this therapy", he said. "But the potential benefit is incredibly encouraging". Initially, she was given oxygen at sea-level pressure.

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The case-study was reported recently in the journal Medical Gas Research.

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