Lifewatch: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that enhances the body's natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber.

The Clinic for Special Children in Wilmington is now equipped with the chamber where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled.

Results for one local family have been so significant, they say there's not turning back from the treatment.

Hanna Smith has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, but since she started hyperbaric oxygen therapy, her mother, Courtney Hamm, said improvements were almost immediate.

"We have seen major cognitive improvements, where she had few words before but now she can talk in complete sentences and tell stories and understand pretty much everything you tell her," said Courtney.

The chamber almost looks like a submarine of sorts, and the atmosphere inside is dark, warm, and relaxing.

The children are carefully monitored during the treatment.  They go into the chamber with an adult, like a mom, and also have contact with the doctor.

Hyperbaric therapy boosts oxygen delivery to the body which promotes the growth of new blood vessels and increases the activity of damaged brain cells.

"You get additional oxygen delivery beyond what your blood can usually hold into tissue that needs to be revitalized in some way, tissue that has been damaged or injured and that includes neuro tissue," said Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician Dr. Karen Harum.

After just a one hour session, Hanna came out of the chamber with more energy, enthusiasm, and vocabulary.

"Well, she's very vocal now and she's come out a lot so before she was really shy, would talk just around friends and family, but now, she's definitely come out a lot, just very happy, just a sweet little girl," said Courtney.

Dr. Harum said hyperbaric oxygen is used to treat all conditions which benefit from increased oxygen, including: multiple sclerosis, near drowning, recovery from plastic surgery, and sports injuries.

For more information about the hyperbaric chamber, click here.

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