Hyperbaric chamber gives hope to veterans with traumatic brain injuries

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t sanctioned it yet, but a new form of treatment is making a positive impact on some Colorado veterans suffering from mild traumatic brain injuries.

The veterans are spending time in a hyperbaric chamber where they inhale 100 percent oxygen for an hour at a time. The idea is to bathe injured areas of the brain with oxygen to encourage new blood vessel growth, according to a report by CBS Denver 4.

Twenty-five percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans came home with traumatic brain injuries caused by the blasts from improvised explosive devices, according to a 2008 RAND Corp. study.

Military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t the only Americans susceptible to traumatic brain injuries.

Each year an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries from a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating injury that disrupts brain functions, according to brainline.org. The leading causes are falls (35 percent), car accidents (17 percent), being struck (16.5 percent) and assaults (10 percent). The rest (21 percent) are unknown or not classified.

Experts say early diagnosis and access to proper care are crucial in helping treat traumatic brain injuries.

Veterans treated at the Rocky Mountain Hyperbaric Institute in Louisville, Colo., say they have seen results.

This form of treatment is legal and safe, according to the institute’s medical director, Dr. Julie Stapleton, a rehabilitative physician. She says she’s seen improvements in some 80 percent of patients, helping them with processing information, attention spans, memory, mood, sleep and headaches.

The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs could not find in its own studies that hyperbaric chamber treatments made any difference for Marines with mild brain injuries.

The FDA hasn’t given approval of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for traumatic brain injuries, though it has sanctioned the treatment for 13 other uses, according to CBS Denver. Because insurance won’t cover it, the Louisville institute is offering hyperbaric treatment free to veterans through private contributions.

On a bright note, Fort Carson officials say they’re preparing to recruit active-duty soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries to conduct a clinical test on this new alternative.

Not only could this prove effective for soldiers who sustain life-altering injuries from IEDs, it could help the tens of thousands of civilians who suffer traumatic brain injuries from falls, car crashes and other types of blows to the head.


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Attorney Steve Ray is a former Marine Corps judge now fights for the rights of accident victims in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. If you have sustained a traumatic brain injury, he brings more than 35 years of legal experience and military discipline to pursuing your claim for compensation.

He will meet with you to discuss your case and, if a claim is possible, pursue the maximum financial recovery available. If we cannot recover money for you, you will pay nothing for our legal services.

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