When brains get deprived of oxygen, during sleep apnea or trauma, dementia and/or neurological sequelae may ensue.
For years I suggested giving oxygen at night to those athletes at risk of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and those at high risk for dementia and Alzheimers. Oxygen at high concentrations have been found to help wounds heal, and why should a vulnerable organ fight for oxygen. Give the brain what it needs.
Now we learn a two year old near-drowning victim, who was submerged for nearly 15 minutes and sustained brain damaged, surpisingly has “minimal” deficits after given extensive oxygen therapy.
In February 2016, Eden Carlson climbed through a baby gate while her mother was showering and fell into the family pool. Her mother performed CPR and medical personnel worked to revive her for hours. They succeeded, but she had suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage. Upon discharge from the hospital 48 days later, Eden had difficulty speaking, walking and responding to her family.
Her medical team then tried oxygen treatments twice a day in 45 minute sessions. These were “normobaric” oxygen treatments, or oxygen at the concentration of one atmosphere (sea level). Then three weeks later she was moved to New Orleans for “hyperbaric” oxygen treatments, or breathing 100% oxygen in a chamber greater than atmospheric pressure.
After ten sessions her mother reported “near normal” activity with doctors finding only “minimal damage” on her MRI scan.
An MRI scan 162 days after the incident showed that the child still has mild residual brain injury but the cortical and white matter atrophy she suffered was nearly completely reversed. (MEDICAL GAS RESEARCH)
According to NYDailyNews, the cortical and white matter atrophy (thinning) almost completely reversed.
This raises the question, should oxygen therapy, either normobaric or hyperbaric, be instituted immediately after injury (near drowning, concussion, infection, etc.) and chronically for those at higher risk of dementia (diabetics; those with heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol; and stroke victims)?
Athletes who sustain multiple concussions are at high risk of developing CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This progressive, degenerative disease of the brain is also found in veterans and those who sustained repeated head trauma. Symptoms include mood disorders, paranoia, impulse control issues, aggression, and memory loss to name a few.
Many victims of CTE aren’t diagnosed until after they die, upon autopsy and evaluation of brain tissue, hence it may be worth researching early oxygen intervention to those at high risk before symptoms surface.
Now oxygen therapy is not without its risks, as those with COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, could lose their respiratory drive, and oxygen toxicity could cause bleeding and seizures. But controlled trials could allow us to investigate if one of the simplest of treatments can help battle some of the most difficult of diseases.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician