Recovery after stroke correlates with non-active (stunned) brain regions, which may persist for years. The current study aimed to evaluate whether increasing the level of dissolved oxygen by Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) could activate neuroplasticity in patients with chronic neurologic deficiencies due to stroke.
Intensive functional therapy and rehabilitation programs for post stroke patients are considered essential for maximizing the patients’ quality of life. Unfortunately, these programs are often just partially successful, and additional therapeutic approaches towards metabolic recovery of affected cerebral tissues are called for. While a considerable amount of preclinical research supports the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for post-stroke damaged brain tissue, so far, only 5 articles reported controlled clinical trials of HBOT for stroke patients. These studies, in which the treatment started during the early-acute phase immediately after stroke, yielded non conclusive and somewhat contradicting results. In contrast, a recent phase-I study evaluating the effect of HBOT on chronic neurological deficiencies (due to traumatic brain injury) revealed promising results. However, to date the effects of HBOT on neurological deficiencies due to stroke during the late-chronic phase (the focus of the current report) have not yet been investigated in a prospective randomized trial.
The results indicate that HBOT can lead to significant neurological improvements in post stroke patients even at chronic late stages. The observed clinical improvements imply that neuroplasticity can still be activated long after damage onset in regions where there is a brain SPECT/CT (anatomy/physiology) mismatch.