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.