I read a writeup about a study on hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) and its effect on gross motor skills at a blog I recently discovered, Therapies for Cerebral Palsy. Thanks, Andy, for bringing it to my attention. I googled around and found the study itself, in The Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy, because I wanted to read more about it. The study was originally reported in the Journal's April - July 2003 issue.
When Max was an infant and we were panicky about his future and desperate to try anything, we did HBOT for about half a year, starting when he was nine months old. We did a total of 40 sessions. The idea behind HBOT is, basically, that there may be areas of the brain surrounding the damaged areas that are dormant—and they have the possibility to be "woken up" and sparked into activity.
The kids in the India study were ages 2 to 5, and there were 30 of them divided into two groups of 15. One group got one hour of occupational therapy for six days a week for a period of six months. The other group, in addition to the OT, got HBOT for one hour a day for six days a week. At the end of the study, the kids who'd gotten HBOT had more improved gross-motor abilities than the group who did not get the oxygen therapy.
The study authors note that this is a very small study, and a larger study would be needed to make more concrete conclusions.
The benefits of HBOT on kids with cp are not clear-cut. I remember it being incredibly expensive (I've blocked out just how much so, but think around $150 a session, no insurance coverage, though prices vary and it's cheaper if you get one of those home oxygen tents). The treatment involved lying down with Max in this type of long glass tube that is not for anyone with claustrophobia (here's a photo of how the tube looks). Then the technician would infuse the tube with pure oxygen. We'd watch Baby Einstein videos to pass the time (but as I mentioned in another post, it's been proven that the videos are not necessarily good for kids).
I have no idea whether or not HBOT had any effect on Max. It's true that Max is doing so much better than the doctors at the NICU said he would—he walks really well, he can speak some words, he's bright. But, he's also had a lot of therapy, starting when he was one month old. And he's got determination (I like to think he inherited my stubborn streak).
Dave and I have always subscribed to the "If it can't hurt and might help, we'll try it" theory of therapy, so we bit the bullet and got it. And I would do it all over again.
What are your thoughts on oxygen therapy?
6 minutes ago