Although considered somewhat controversial, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (i.e., breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber) has been used to address various health issues, and now the U.S. military will test it out to help Iraq and Afghan combat vets with traumatic brain injury.
About 300 service members with mild to moderate damage will participate in the trials of hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help determine whether it can help them heal, or at least ease the headaches, mood swings or other symptoms linked to brain injury.
Some will spend a total of 40 hours over 10 weeks breathing pure oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber, where the atmospheric pressure is increased to a level similar to what they would experience about 20 feet under water.
The clinical trial will begin early next year at five military bases around the country. The premise behind this form of treatment is that oxygen will dissolve more readily in the blood if the body is under pressure, and that if the blood delivers more oxygen to the body, it can help in the healing of damaged brain tissue.
According to the Pentagon, at least 134,000 soldiers suffered traumatic brain injuries from 2003 through 2009.
Here is a video that discusses the basics of this therapy:
This video discusses its potential application to traumatic brain injury: