Early Studies with HBOT and Multiple Sclerosis
During the 1970s, researchers from four European countries described several benefits they’d noticed while treating multiple sclerosis with hyperbaric oxygen. In 1975, Dr. Richard Neubauer, a worldwide authority on HBOT, used the therapy to treat an MS patient suffering from bone inflammation (osteomyelitis) at Fort Lauderdale’s Ocean Medical Center. In addition to bringing down the inflammation, HBOT and hyperbaric oxygen had an unanticipated benefit: the patients’ other MS symptoms improved. That led to several double-blind scientific studies.
Without successful treatment, 80 percent of those suffering from MS have progressive and deteriorating symptoms. Using both double-blind and longitudinal clinical studies, Dr. Neubauer administered individually-adjusted, hyperbaric oxygen therapy at low pressure (1.3 to 1.5 atmospheres) to his patients with MS. And although 20 to 30 percent of these patients continued to deteriorate, between 70 and 80 percent didn’t just stabilize – both their tissue damage and symptoms improved! As a result, the interest in HBOT and hyperbaric oxygen for multiple sclerosis grew.
The 1980s Show Positive Connection Between Hyperbaric Oxygen, HBOT, and Multiple Sclerosis
Between 1980 and 1982, Drs. B. H. Fischer, M. Marks, and T. Reich at New York University Medical Center completed the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of HBOT for 40 patients who had suffered from MS for 11 years or more. The researchers divided the patients randomly into two groups of 20. The experimental group breathed pure oxygen during 90-minute treatments once per day for 20 days, and the control group was given a mixture of 10% oxygen and 90% nitrogen over the same period. Three patients in the experiment group dropped out of the study prior to completion.
The researchers published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1983. Twelve out of 17 (70%) of the study’s participants who had HBOT improved, with just two showing deterioration at their one-year follow-up. The patients who were least severely affected with MS saw the best results. By comparison, of the patients who got the oxygen-nitrogen mix, only one patient in 20 (5%) saw any improvement.
Studies Continued to Show Positive Results
By 1984, Dr. Neubauer and others had studied the impact of HBOT on over 10,000 MS patients in fourteen countries. Of these patients, 70 percent improved both brain, bladder and bowel function and their muscle spasticity declined. Twenty-five percent of the patients had measurable improvements. Forty-five percent of the patients also reported feeling better. At one hyperbaric medicine conference, Dr. Neubauer stated that 600 MS patients he had treated with HBOT experienced substantial objective improvement. He also noted that periodic HBOT boosters reduced both deterioration and the frequency of a relapse.
In 1986, Neubauer and Kagan demonstrated that 11 out of 35 MS patients’ lesions disappeared after just one hour of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. At three separate international conferences, Neubauer, Kagan, and Gottlieb presented research showing that MRI tests had confirmed a statistically significant reduction in both the number and size of lesions in MS patients who had HBOT, versus those who did not.
The Start of The Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Centers
In Paris, France, Pallotta and other researchers followed 22 MS patients for 8 years. Each participant received an initial course of 20 HBOT treatments. Only 11 patients continued in treatments, receiving HBOT twice every 20 days. Those having prolonged treatments experienced a dramatic decrease in relapses, whereas those who only had the initial course of treatment found their relapses gradually increased again. This conclusively established the importance of continuing HBOT treatments. The patients who saw such dramatic improvements established a non-profit called The Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Centers, which now has multiple HBOT facilities throughout the United Kingdom.
Recent Studies and the Continued Benefits of HBOT for Multiple Sclerosis
The most recent study on HBOT and MS came from the MS National Therapy Centre in the United Kingdom, where HBOT is regularly used to treat MS patients. They looked at 117 patients that had received regular HBOT treatments, at least every other week, for five to 15 years. The patients that showed the best results received on average 300 treatments over at least 10 years, or every other week. Of course, patients receiving weekly treatment saw better results. Of the patients that continued regular treatments, 23 percent showed no deterioration and seven percent showed improvement.
HBOT and Multiple Sclerosis Treatments
When the blood-brain barrier sustains an injury, brain tissues swell and impede O2 delivery, leading to loss of function. With this in mind, hyperbaric oxygen therapy pushes oxygen deep into areas that the circulatory system can’t reach. This permits the blood-brain-barrier and its underlying tissues to heal and restores the nervous system’s ability to accurately relay messages. How effective HBOT can be for MS depends on whether injured cells have truly died or whether the cells remain dormant but viable. Treatments for multiple sclerosis with hyperbaric oxygen therapy early produces the best results, while the brain’s potential to restore lost function is the greatest. Even though HBOT cannot help everyone with MS, it’s important to remember that even chronic MS patients have experienced dramatic improvements.
If you would like to learn more about how HBOT can help treat your MS, give our office a call today and set up an initial consultation. You may also click HERE and fill in our contact form.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the nervous system that affects the brain and the spinal cord. It attacks the myelin sheath, which is the protective material around nerve cells. The destruction of this sheath disrupts the signals between the brain and the body. The cause of MS is unknown, but it is considered an immune-mediated disease. With an immune-mediated disease, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and, in the case of MS, the myelin sheath of the nerves.
MS symptoms typically surface between the ages of 20 and 40 and occur more often in women than men. An odd risk factor for MS is one’s latitude. Specifically, people living farther from the Equator have a higher risk factor for developing the disease. There are four different types of MS and the symptoms and progression of the disease are dependent on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected.
Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis
There are four different types of Multiple Sclerosis and each type is determined by the way the disease affects the body. These four types include:
- Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) – RRMS is the most common form of MS, with 85 percent of MS patients receiving this diagnosis. It is characterized by clear attacks, termed relapses or exacerbations. A period of recovery or remission follows each attack. During these remissions, all symptoms may completely disappear until the next attack or some may remain and become permanent.
- Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS) – Secondary-Progressive is like RRMS in that there are periods of relapses and remission, however, SPMS patients have progressively worsening symptoms and neurologic function. As many as 60 to 70 percent of RRMS patients eventually progress to SPMS.
- Primary-Progressive MS (PPMS) – Primary-Progressive MS features continual worsening neurologic function without any relapses or remission. Only 15 percent of MS patients are diagnosed with PPMS.
- Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS) – Progressive-Relapsing MS is a rare form of the disease, affecting only five percent of MS patients. This form features worsening neurologic function with periods of relapses. During these relapses, the symptoms do not go away, but the disease does not progress.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis vary between patients and are dependent on the location of the damaged nerve fibers. Common symptoms include:
- Numbness or weakness in the legs or truck
- Partial or complete loss of vision
- Double vision
- Tingling or nerve pain
- Lhermitte’s sign – an electric-shock-like sensation that occurs when the neck is moved.
- Muscle tremors
- Lack of coordination, dizziness, or an unsteady gait
- Problems with Speech
- Severe Fatigue
- Muscle Spasticity
- Problems with bladder and bowel function
- Mood alterations
Traditional Multiple Sclerosis Treatments
There is no cure for MS and treatments focus on slowing the progression and treating the symptoms. During MS attacks, corticosteroids or plasmapheresis work to reduce the duration of the attacks and return the patient to a remission stage. To slow the progression of the disease, doctors prescribe various disease-modifying drugs and immunosuppressants. Physical therapy helps to strengthen muscles affected by the disease, as well as help to adjust to daily life. Muscle relaxants can help reduce muscle spasticity and other medications target depression, pain, and bladder and bowel control problems.
With this in mind, If you would like more information on how HBOT can help you and your MS, please give our office a call at 727.787.7077 to set up a consultation. Dr. Spiegel and his team will go over your medical history and determine the best treatment plan for you.