Medical

Oxygen therapy reverses brain damage in toddler saved from drowning

Oxygen therapy reverses brain ...
Doctors have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where a patient is administered pure oxygen in a pressure-controlled chamber, to reverse brain damage in a toddler saved from drowning
Doctors have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where a patient is administered pure oxygen in a pressure-controlled chamber, to reverse brain damage in a toddler saved from drowning
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Doctors have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where a patient is administered pure oxygen in a pressure-controlled chamber, to reverse brain damage in a toddler saved from drowning
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Doctors have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where a patient is administered pure oxygen in a pressure-controlled chamber, to reverse brain damage in a toddler saved from drowning

If medical professionals can intervene quickly enough, the heart can be restarted after a person has officially died, but the resulting brain damage often means they struggle to return to their former motor function and neurological capacity. Now, doctors at LSU Health New Orleans and the University of North Dakota have successfully reversed the brain damage of a two-year-old drowning victim using oxygen therapy techniques.

The doctors explain that the girl's heart stopped after she drowned in a swimming pool, but she was later resuscitated at the Arkansas Children's Hospital. When MRI scans were performed, they revealed deep gray matter injury, and the loss of both gray and white matter. She could no longer speak, walk or respond to voices, and she couldn't stop squirming and shaking her head.

To treat the girl, Dr Paul Harch, the Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at LSU Health, proposed hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which involves administering pure oxygen to a patient lying in a pressurized chamber. That wasn't available in the girl's location, so to prevent permanent tissue damage, Harch began a bridging treatment of normobaric oxygen therapy – essentially the same thing, but at a normal pressure, equal to that at sea level.

The normobaric treatment began 55 days after the drowning incident, and involved two 45 minute sessions a day. This continued for about three weeks, and during that time significant improvements were seen. The girl became more alert, stopped squirming, and regained some movement in her arms and hands. She could laugh, eat, track motion with her eyes, and her speech began to return.

The patient and her family then traveled to a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center in New Orleans, where her treatment continued for a further eight weeks. From day 79 after the injury, the girl was placed in a hyperbaric chamber at 1.3 atmospheres of pressure and given pure oxygen for 45 minutes a day, five days a week.

The girl's condition improved throughout the treatment. After 40 sessions and some physical therapy, the doctors reported that she had normal cognition and near-normal motor function, she could speak better than she could before the accident, and could walk with assistance. An MRI taken four weeks after the end of the treatment also showed that the brain damage had almost completely reversed, leaving only mild residual injury.

While it's no doubt a promising and encouraging story, the doctors acknowledge that there are a lot of unknowns still surrounding the treatment and admit their success in this case may be largely due to the girl's young age.

"The startling regrowth of tissue in this case occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration," says Harch. "Although it's impossible to conclude from this single case if the sequential application of normobaric oxygen then HBOT would be more effective than HBOT alone, in the absence of HBOT therapy, short duration, repetitive normobaric oxygen therapy may be an option until HBOT is available. Such low-risk medical treatment may have a profound effect on recovery of function in similar patients who are neurologically devastated by drowning."

The report was published in the journal Medical Gas Research.

Source: LSU Health Sciences Center

5 comments
CraigAllenCorson
I can't help but wonder if such treatment would result in improved brain function in UNinjured children, or in autistic children. Could be worth looking into. Suppose every classrom in the country had enhanced oxygen levels? Precautions against fire would have to be emphasized, of course.
Signguy
I heard a true story from a nurse of a man who committed suicide by asphyxiation/carbon monoxide from a car exhaust; they wanted to harvest his organs but they were too "polluted"; they decided to "flush" the body in a Chamber/oxygen & within a few days the man walked out of the hospital totally restored.
MattII
@Signguy, it would have taken a bit more than that, since if he was already dead, his heart wouldn't have been beating, and thus, no circulation.
Kpar
This is a stunning article, not least because of the lengthy time between the incident and subsequent treatment. Recent studies had indicated that many of the "cascade effects" that cause neural cell death occurred after the RE-introduction of O2 to the patients (drowning, stroke, other injuries), making it a dicey proposition. Sounds like an excellent course for future study.
Gregg Eshelman
Looks like by chance they hit the timing just right. It has been found that heart and brain damage after restarting* the proper heart beat is caused by a shock from restoring too much oxygen too soon. Could be that what cardiac arrest patients need is an hour or so of just elevated pressure normal air, followed by increased oxygen at normal pressure. Get the cells past the oxygen shock stage that'll kill more of them than died while deprived while the heart wasn't beating properly, and they'll survive better. *Defibrillators don't work on a *stopped* heart. Fibrillation is when the cardiac muscle fibers are not synchronized in their contractions. The atria and ventricles pulse alternately to pressurize the blood in two stages. A sort of halfway fibrillation is atrial flutter or a-flutter. The atria pulse too quickly yet still push enough blood into the ventricles to keep the person alive. A procedure called cardio reversion is used to 'reset' the heart with an electrical zap. Medication can also be used to control a-flutter. A heart that has totally *stopped* with no muscle contraction at all is much more serious. A strong blow to the chest just right can shock the heart into stopping. (This is why all kids playing Little League Baseball should wear chest armor!) The same can in some cases restart it. If you've ever seen an EMT or doctor hit a patient in the chest really hard, they're attempting to restart the heart. A shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) directly into the heart may kickstart it. Cutting the chest open to apply electric shock directly or use direct manual massage (grab the heart and squeeze) are other options. CPR attempts to keep blood flowing and possibly get the heart to restart or defib on its own. If your heart has totally stopped, you are much worse off than if it's gone into fibrillation. Automatic defibrillators check for lack of activity and will not zap because it won't do any good to apply the zap through the body.