Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is an injury to the head and the spinal cord caused by trauma or destructive pathologies such as tumors that cause compression and deformity on spinal cord. Left untreated this can lead to neurovascular deterioration, reduced blood supply and oxygen supply (ischemia and hypoxia), swelling and consequent degeneration of nerve cells (neurons) leading to Paraplegia and Quadriplegia.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can reverse neuronal damage by providing immediate high oxygen levels to injured nerve tissue. Sufficient oxygen can activate anatomically intact but dormant neurons in the penumbra zone, zone with diminished tissue oxygenation surrounding infarct (dead) cells. Hyperbaric oxygen relieves ischemia of the grey matter of the spinal cord and reduces swelling of the white matter. Increased oxygen levels in the cerebral spinal fluid correct biochemical disturbances at the immediate and distal sites of spinal cord injury including metabolic enzymatic disturbance, therefore reducing secondary spinal cord degeneration.
The key element in preventing neurovascular deterioration in spinal cord injury is early hyperbaric oxygen therapy implementation. Further hyperbaric oxygen therapy in later rehabilitation will speed up neuromuscular recovery.
Although SCI fits under “off-label condition” category and will not be covered by insurance, many hospitals around the world especially in Asia are using hyperbaric oxygen as an initial treatment in acute patients and later as addition to rehabilitation in chronic patients.
Early oxygen therapy provides protection against progressive degeneration of post traumatic spinal cord injury.