HBOT for Autism

HBOT has only been used under doctor supervision for children with autism for a little over two years.Why does it help ASD children?

To understand the reason it works it is necessary to review some of the current research and findings of biomedical conditions of children with autism.

What does this mean to the ASD child?

When a typical person focuses on a task or generate speech, the brain is doing more work and there is an increase in blood flow to the brain. This increase in the blood flow to the brain supplies the brain with more oxygen and glucose, giving the cells their needed energy to perform their task.

In autistic children, several studies have shown the opposite, they actually have diminished blood flow to begin with, and when their brain is attempting to perform a task, such as generating speech or focusing, their blood flow does not increase giving them the needed oxygen and glucose the cells need.

This indication of damage are a result of cerebral hypoxia (impaired oxygen delivery), resulting from hypoperfusion.

Cerebral Hypoperfusion

Cerebral Hypoperfusion is simply decreased blood flow to the brain. There have been numerous studies in the medical literature demonstrating hypoperfusion in ASD children, documenting as many as 86% of the children being affected. One way this has been documented is through the use of SPECT scans. One study conducted by Dr. James Wilcox in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center showed the hypoperfusion typically worsened with the age of the child, becoming “quite profound” in older children. The diminished blood flow can be seen with a clear correlation to many core autistic symptoms/behaviors.

Selected Areas of Cerebral Hypoperfusion

Where does the hypoperfusion come from?

The actual cause of hypoperfusion in ASD children is still being researched; however, many researchers are looking seriously at inflammation as the core cause.

In 2005 John Hopkins published results of autopsies of individuals with autism. There was evidence of neuroinflammation, or inflammation of the brain. Since that time several studies confirm the neuroinflammation of children with autism.

When Johns Hopkins University researchers published their findings of inflammation in patients with autism, they recommended potential therapeutic interventions focusing on “control of its detrimental effects.”

More inflammation….

There are dozens of studies showing the correlation between gastrointestinal tract inflammation and autism. This has been termed autistic enterocolitis or chronic ileocolonic lymphoid nodulal hyperplasia (LNH). The characteristics of this condition are: inflammation of the colon, stomach, and small intestines. According to Wakefield, as many as 90% of children with autism have gastrointestinal symptoms (such as, diarrhea, constipation) and 68% have moderate to severe problems.

Why does HBOT help children with ASD?

The exact reasons it helps children with ASD are still being research, however there are some clear correlations one can make with the current research.

First, it removes toxins, such as heavy metals from the body.

It reduces inflammation allowing oxygen deprived areas to have a return of blood flow.

It builds new capillaries in the brain.

It reduces the inflammation in the gut.

Hawaii study

Hawaii has more autism per capita than any other state.

An interesting fact, Hawaii, unlike other states does not “regulate or restrict the amount of mercury-based preservative thimerosal used in immunizations.” (Markley, 2006)

One study done privately in Hawaii by Dr. Markley, protocol 20 hours HBOT at 1.5 ata with 100% oxygen, showed amazing results after just 20 hours, less than half the starting prescribed treatment.

All participants received comprehensive ADOS and ADI-R testing just prior to beginning HBOT. They also were evaluated using a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores.

The study consisted of 20 children, 4 female and 16 male.

What do parent report?

Parents and doctors of autistic children have reported benefits of HBOT that included:

  • Improved sleep
  • Children becoming calmer and more affectionate
  • Improved focus and attention
  • Improved bowel function
  • More “Present”
  • Less Sensory Disturbance
  • Improved Cognition
  • More Language
  • More “Connected” to Family. (2)

Markley, M. Treating children with autism using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Hyperbaric Medicine Center. 2007.