Hyperbaric Ambulance Saves Brains
A hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)-equipped ambulance is being developed in North Carolina through a collaborative effort of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Wake Forest University Hospital system and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. The hyperbaric ambulance will prolong the therapeutic window to allow TPA (tissue plasminogen activator, or “clot-buster”) therapy to be given to patients that have suffered an acute stroke and have a long travel time to a hospital. TPA improves stroke outcome and results in less disability.
HBOT intervention, preferably within three hours of rescue, also improves the outcome in acute anoxic brain injury caused by near-drowning and cardiopulmonary arrest. Hyperbaric ambulances and/or acute HBOT treatment would change the associated disability of these injuries forever. The research of French physician Dr. Daniel Mathieu suggests a mechanism by which we interrupt the cascade of intracellular injury caused by acute anoxia under hyperbaric conditions at two atmospheres (pressure) of 100 percent medical oxygen.
From the worldwide literature, we know that Japan has been using hyperbaric ambulances since the 1970s. In Japan, if you call 911 and may have a heart- or brain-related emergency, EMS will arrive in a hyperbaric ambulance to minimize the loss of heart and brain tissue.
Oxygen under pressure provides physiological benefits that are not present when a patient is breathing oxygen under regular atmospheric pressure conditions. HBOT creates oxygen radicals in a hyperoxic environment and triggers healing mechanisms that include acute arrest of the cascade of intracellular injury, release of stem cells, induced healing, angiogenesis, bacteriostatic effects and modification of gene expression. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is more than a lifesaver—it’s a brain saver.
Carol L. Henricks, M.D. (neurology) specializes in memory and sleep disorders, epilepsy and hyperbaric medicine at NorthStar Neurology, PC, located at 7596 N LaCholla Blvd. Contact her at 520-229-1238.