Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy afflicts more than 500,000 people in the United States, and every year more than 4,500 new cases are diagnosed. The condition results from damage to the motor areas of the brain, which leads to an inability to control body movements. Studies conducted both in the United States and abroad have strongly suggested that increased delivery of oxygen to the brain via mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy may reduce the spasticity associated with cerebral palsy.

It has been theorized that the neurological damage that leads to cerebral palsy does not result in complete cell death in the injured area. Some cells, it is postulated, receive enough oxygen to stay alive, but not enough to function. Oxygen therapy exponentially increases the amount of available free oxygen in the blood. Increased oxygen to the brain may "jump start" oxygen-starved cells and help to return motor control to the patient. If your child or another family member suffers from cerebral palsy, mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy at our Hyp02 Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center may be beneficial for the treatment of symptoms. Our hyperbaric chambers do not restrict movement, and they are large enough to allow you to join your child or family member during treatment. Contact us today for further information or to make an appointment for oxygen therapy treatment.

Cerebral Palsy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The term "cerebral palsy" is not a specific diagnosis, but is now generally applied to children who experience some forms of brain trauma either at the time of birth or shortly before. Typically, these children manifest some degree of cognitive impairment as well as physical impairment, often with weakness and spasticity of arms and legs. Typically treatment for children with cerebral palsy has been directed at the physical manifestations of the underlying problem. Most efforts are directed at increasing the ranges of motion, reducing spasticity, and increasing strength, along with specific therapies designed to enhance communication skills and academic performance.

Evidence from other countries is now providing strong support for the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to improve the underlying problem in children with cerebral palsy. Hyperbaric oxygen actually targets the abnormalities of brain function. This offers an exciting new approach for treatment.

Studies show that the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in children with cerebral palsy is linked to its enhancing the function of previously damaged neurons (brain/nerve cells). These neurons have been called "idling neurons" in that while they are still alive, they have been damaged to the extent that their function is compromised. Hyperbaric oxygen facilitates the restoration of these damaged neurons which improves brain function and the nervous system. The use of Hyperbaric oxygen to help children with cerebral palsy is becoming more widespread in the United States

"Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy."

Cronje, F.

SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL JOURNAL, 1999, 89(4): 359-60. Letter.

Subjective and objective clinical improvements have been reported anecdotal in almost all children treated with Hyperbaric oxygen throughout the world, including South Africa, with no adverse effects. Possible mechanisms by which Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may benefit these children include:

  1. Normalization of glucose metabolism by injured brain cells - positive effects continue even after the oxygen exposure has ceased.
  2. Hyperbaric oxygen has a dramatic effect on reducing tissue swelling and is used in the treatment of crush and traumatic injuries for that reason.
  3. The improvement in motor function and decrease in Spasticity in chronic brain injury and CP seems to be related to a "recanvassing" of idling neurons in the affected area of the brain - neurons that survived the original hypoxia or trauma but have not resumed their former electrical activity due to com-promised blood supply and oxygen delivery.

Pediatric Cerebral Palsy treated by 1.5 ATA Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

A pilot study

Barrett, Kevin M.D., et al.

(Professor of Hyperbaric Medicine,

University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas).

Five children, average age 41.8 months, were treated with 1.5 ATA Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for a total of sixty treatments administered for one hour daily, five days per week.

The authors conclude that Hyperbaric oxygen therapy effected improvements in tests of gross motor and fine motor function and decreased Spasticity. Results were measured by the modified Ashworth Spasticity score in patients with chronic cerebral palsy.

Functional reorganization in the visual cortex is suggested by the reappearance of visual evoked potentials, where none had existed before HBOT.

Hyperbaric oxygenation for cerebral palsy

Gunnar Heuser, J Michael Uszler

We treated eight adults with toxic encephalopathy (impaired brain function secondary to exposure to pesticides, solvents, and other neurotoxic compounds). Patients were given ten daily treatment sessions of 1 h each, with 1·32 ATA and an oxygen concentration of 24% (mild treatment). As done by Collet and colleagues, we measured attention and reaction time by use of a test of variables of attention. However, we added SPECT brain scanning before and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy to objectively assess results.2—4

The figure shows three-dimensional displays of SPECT of the cerebral hemispheres of a representative patient before and after treatment with mild therapy. Our computer program makes a regional quantitative comparison of an individual's scan with a group of more than 20 controls. The baseline impairment of perfusion moved into the normal yellow zone after treatment.

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All eight patients improved significantly after only ten sessions of mild therapy. General wellbeing and variables of attention also improved.5

We conclude that mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be effective in improving SPECT as well as attention and reaction times. Therefore, the beneficial effect in patients described by Collet and colleagues is probably related to the beneficial effects of slightly pressurised air rather than to the act of participating in the study.


  1. Collet J-P, Vanasse M, Marois P, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen for children with cerebral palsy: a randomised multicentre trial. Lancet 2001; 357: 582-586. Summary | Full Text | PDF(85KB) | CrossRef | PubMed
  2. Neubauer RA. Cerebral palsy and the brain injured child: 26th Annual Meeting of the European Underwater and Baromedical Society on Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, Malta, Sept 14—17, 2000.
  3. Neubauer RA, Gottlieb SF, Kagan RL. Enhancing "idling" neurons. Lancet 1990; 335: 542. CrossRef | PubMed
  4. Neubauer RA, Uszler J, James P. Hyperbaric oxygenation: the recoverable brain in certain pediatric patients: 8th International Child Neurology Congress. . Ljubljana: Slovenia, Sept 13—18, 1998.
  5. Heuscr G, Heuser S, Aguilera O, Rodelander D, Amoun K. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment for impaired brain function: 8th Intemational Congress on Anti-Aging and Biomedical Technology. . Las Vegas: CA, Dec 15—17, 2000.