Stroke patients who have suffered brain damage can significantly benefit from oxygen therapy even years after the event, an Israeli study says.
Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and colleague Eshel Ben-Jacob, professor of physics and astronomy, recruited post-stroke patients for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) - sessions in high pressure chambers that contain oxygen-rich air - which increases oxygen levels in the body tenfold.
Analysis of brain imaging showed significantly increased neuronal (brain cell) activity after a two-month period of HBOT treatment, compared to patients who did not undergo treatment, says Efrati, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.
Patients experienced a reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language. These changes can make a world of difference in daily life, helping patients recover their independence and complete tasks such as bathing, cooking, climbing stairs, or reading a book, according to a Tel Aviv statement.
According to Efrati, there are several degrees of brain injuries. Neurons impacted by metabolic dysfunction have the energy to stay alive, but not enough to fire electric signals, he explains. HBOT aims to increase the supply of energy to these cells.
The brain consumes 20 percent of the body's oxygen but that is only enough oxygen to operate five to 10 percent of neurons at any one time. The regeneration process requires much more energy.
The tenfold increase in oxygen levels during HBOT treatment supplies the necessary energy for rebuilding neuronal connections and stimulating inactive neurons to facilitate the healing process, explains Efrati.
The researchers based their study on post stroke patients whose condition was no longer improving.