Hyperbaric treatment shows promise for autism

Posted on Mar 26, 2009 in Autism

Fri, Mar 20, 2009 (Reuters Health) – Kids with autism may benefit from a series
of treatments in a pressurized chamber with boosted oxygen levels.

The results of small trial indicate that hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as it’s
called, improves language ability, social interaction, and other functions in
such children.

The trial involved 62 children, from 2 to 7 years of age, diagnosed with
autistic dis
order. Dr. Daniel A. Rossignol, from the International Child
Development Resource Center in Melbourne, Florida, and colleagues, randomly
assigned the children to 40 one-hour sessions of hyperbaric therapy or sham

The hyperbaric group was treated with 24 percent oxygen at a pressure of 1.3
atmospheres while the comparison group received a normal level of oxygen (21
percent) in a slightly pressured room (1.03 atmospheres). To be safe, the active
treatment was actually a relatively low level of hyperbaric therapy; treatment
for carbon monoxide poisoning, for instances, is usually given at 2 atmospheres
with 100 percent oxygen.

The team found that, compared with the sham treatment, hyperbaric therapy
significantly improved the kids’ overall functioning, grasp of language, social
interaction, and eye contact.

Moreover, 80 percent of hyperbaric-treated patients were rated as improved
compared with 38 percent of controls, according to the report in the online
journal BMC Pediatrics.

On a behavior checklist, the hyperbaric treatment group had significant
improvements in irritability, hyperactivity, repetitive behaviors, and speech,
while the control group did not.

Further analysis of the results showed that children who were at least 5 years
old and those with lower initial autism severity derived the greatest benefits
from hyperbaric treatment.

No treatment complications were noted with hyperbaric therapy, which was well
“Given the positive findings of this study, and the shortage of proven
treatments for individuals with autism, parents who pursue hyperbaric treatment
for their child with autism can be assured that it is a safe treatment modality
at the pressure used in this study, and that it may improve certain autistic
behaviors,” Rossignol’s team concludes.

— Reuters

What you can do:

* Visit the Autism Information Center at the U.S. National Institute of
Mental Health website.
* Our development areas will give you a good idea of what to expect when
from your 2- to 4-year-old or 5- to 8-year-old. Keep in mind that some children
just need a little extra time to meet certain milestones — yours may be one of
* Share experiences with other parents on our Children With Autism Spectrum
Disorder group.