Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clinic Notes: Hyperbaric Chambers and Autism

"Treating" autism is big business. Anecdotal reports have reported that children with autism have shown remarkable gains following exposure to increased oxygen in hyperbaric chambers. Supposedly, the increased oxygen increases blood flow thereby decreases inflammation, which changes the brain chemistry that causes autism. Of course, this is all hypothetical and no double blind randomized studies have been done until now. Researchers at Center for Autism and Related Disorders found no significant effect following hyperbaric therapy. I'm not surprised at the results. What I wonder about is how all this got started? Hyperbaric chambers have a long history in medicine and while there are legitimate uses there are also many times that hyperbaric chambers are used with scant data supporting their use. Furthermore, many of the studies are funded by the manufacturers of the hyperbaric chambers. (See the New York Times review by Jane E. Brody http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/health/10brody.html?_r=2&ref=science