Published: Sat, July 22, 2017
Medical | By Rita Mcdonald

Family: Oxygen treatment reversed New Orleans toddler's brain damage from near drowning

Family: Oxygen treatment reversed New Orleans toddler's brain damage from near drowning

The apparent success of scientists in reversing brain damage in a two-year-old who almost drowned in a swimming pool has been called a "miracle" by her family.

Kristal said before they left for Eden's first therapy session, the doctor told them to give her some oxygen on their own.

Ahead of the medical conference, her physician, Dr. Paul Harch, sat down with WDSU to explain how the low-risk medical treatment may be able to reverse a significant amount of brain damage even weeks after the trauma occurred.

While videos documented in Eden's case suggest the therapy has shown positive results, HBOT remains a controversial therapy in the USA and is yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After these treatments, Eden became more alert and started to speak and even laugh again, according to the case report.

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The toddler, who is believed to have spent at least 10 minutes underwater, was rushed to hospital, where doctors saved her life but confirmed she had suffered serious, irreversible brain damage. However, Miller said he found the report "to be really underwhelming in terms of its evidence".

Doctors recently reported the reversal of brain volume loss in an unresponsive two-year-old cold water drowning victim who had experienced cardiac arrest.

Dr. David Cifu, professor and chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, was similarly concerned about the paper. People can recover brain function after near drowning, he said, and "it has nothing to do with hyperbaric oxygen". The specialists were able to do so by using oxygen therapy. In these studies, participants received either a hyperbaric oxygen treatment or a "sham" treatment that was not expected to have an effect.

Then the HBOT began at 78 days post-drowning, with Eden placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for 45 minutes a day for five days a week.

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Harch noted that the regrowth of the tissue due to the therapy was possible because they were working on a young child.

When questioned on whether this holds out hope for others who have had brain injuries, Dr Harch said: "Unquestionably".

The therapy has not been approved by the FDA in the past, but the hospital was experimenting with it. "And usually, they continue along that line of atrophy and more shrinkage".

Dr Harch offers the experimental treatment, which has always been used to treat divers suffering from decompression sickness known as "the bends" but is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medical treatment for other diseases.

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While noting that it's impossible to draw form conclusions from a single case, Harsh says it may be the case that applying normobaric oxygen therapy before hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an effective option for recovery.

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