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Tags: veterans | oxygen therapy | suicide | PTSD

Vets Could Use Oxygen Therapy

William Maxfield, M.D. By Friday, 16 September 2016 02:23 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Last summer, I was listening to the “Science Friday” program on public radio. I was surprised to hear that the problems of “invisible wounds” of war were still poorly understood by many doctors.

In my opinion, the only reason we still talk about invisible wounds of war is because not enough people know how to look at the function of the brain.

Data presented on the radio program indicated that autopsies on veterans with blast exposure did, in fact, show damage in the brain.

But the cause, or set of causes (what doctors call “etiology”) for the damage was not explained.

The problem of blast exposure is the same as decompression illness — also called “the bends” — sometimes suffered during scuba diving. The blast produces significant overpressure, and then a very quick release of pressure, causing the formation of bubbles in the cardiovascular system.

These bubbles can go to the brain and cause the damage we see in those “invisible” wounds of war.

In fact, I have worked with a number of veterans who have suffered traumatic brain damage, sometimes from severe blast exposure. Unfortunately, the majority ended up attempting suicide.

In the 1930s, when subways were being dug in Europe, there was a high instance of Caisson’s disease — a type of decompression illness. And those patients had a high incidence of suicide, just as veterans do today.

On the other hand, we do not see increased suicide in patients suffering decompression illness from scuba diving because those patients are almost always treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

Likewise, of the vets we have treated with HBOT, none of them again attempted suicide.

Frankly, I don’t see why the Veterans Administration and the military won’t allow veterans who have had significant blast exposure to receive a single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) brain scan to determine brain injury and objectively document the response to HBOT.

One young man I treated had suffered no physical trauma during active duty, but was exposed to some 40 blasts. He was taking psychiatric drugs and had attempted suicide.

Based on CT and MRI scans, this young veteran had been told that his problem was psychological.

However, the SPECT brain scan we obtained prior to treating him with HBOT showed a pattern that indicated significantly abnormal brain function.

This occurrence of a brain looking anatomically normal but functioning in an abnormal manner is what Dr. Richard Neubauer called “idling neurons.” He found that these idling neurons responded well to HBOT.

The SPECT brain scan has been used since the 1980s, but it is just now being recognized in medical circles.

In fact, you can go online today and actually see many SPECT brain scans, particularly from work done by Dr. Daniel Amen and from the Mayo Clinic.

Because of the SPECT brain scan and HBOT, the young vet who had suffered so many blast exposures was able to stop taking all of his psychiatric drugs and has graduated from college with excellent grades.

But the real reward was when his mother told us, “Thank you for giving me back my son.”

There is also significant evidence of the value of HBOT for treating traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

We should be using HBOT to treat our wounded veterans. I simply cannot understand why it is still one of the best-kept medical secrets out there.

I can only hope that the Veterans Administration and the military will take heed of the data, and begin using HBOT for patients who have had significant blast exposure, traumatic brain injury, and/or PTSD.

© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

I can only hope that the Veterans Administration and the military will take heed of the data, and begin using HBOT for patients who have had significant blast exposure, traumatic brain injury, and/or PTSD.
veterans, oxygen therapy, suicide, PTSD
Friday, 16 September 2016 02:23 PM
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