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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

HBO stands for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. HBO involves delivering 100% oxygen to body tissues under pressure, the equivalent of going 8 - 24 feet below sea level, in a special chamber. HBO at these pressures causes virtually no side effects and is, in fact, a pleasant, comfortable experience for most children.

When tissues are deprived of oxygen, damage occurs. Children with cerebral palsy have experience some form of injury to their brain before, during or shortly after their birth. The availability of oxygen is essential to any healing process. The purpose of HBO is to oxygenate the cells of the body to promote healing of damaged tissues, to decrease swelling and to improve circulation. In the case of cerebral palsy, there may be some recoverable (dormant, not dead) brain tissue around the damaged areas that may be able (when activated by HBO) to take over some of the functions of the damaged areas.

There are many reports of improvements in children with cerebral palsy when HBO is used as an adjunct to traditional physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy programs. Improvements noted include: decreased spasticity, improved speech, increased alertness, improved visual functioning, etc.

Although accepted as a treatment for a number of conditions (i.e. decompression sickness - "the bends" - in divers, gas gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning), the scientific research into treating children with cerebral palsy with HBO is still considered investigational, therefore, not covered by insurance plans at this time.

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