Pure oxygen used in treating brain injuries
Active-duty Marines will undergo trials at Pendleton, Lejeune naval hospitals
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Oct 22, 2011 9:18:14 EDT
Marines are participating in a study to see whether treatments of pure oxygen will help heal service members with mild traumatic brain injuries, one of the most common wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Medical investigators plan for 96 Marines, sailors and other service members to participate in the initial 10-week trial involving treatments of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, with 24 participants each at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, Calif., and Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital, N.C. The Army Medical Research and Materiel Command oversees the study, which also includes Army hospitals at Fort Gordon, Ga., and Fort Carson, Colo.
The trial began in early October and should be completed by year’s end. If the results are positive, it may lead to a larger study involving 300 to 400 participants, said Cmdr. James Caviness, an occupational and environmental medicine physician and principal investigator for the study at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital.
“Hopefully this will be another tool in the arsenal” to help sufferers, said Caviness, the hospital’s occupational health department head.
Trial participants must have suffered a mild TBI while on active duty operating in the U.S. Central Command region, and they must live or be stationed near a study site.
While most people recover from concussions, or mild TBI, some later suffer what doctors call persistent post-concussive injuries. “They develop some chronic problems,” such as headaches, irritability, poor sleep, memory loss and imbalance, Caviness said. “That’s the group that we have trouble with in our current treatment program.”
Medical researchers suspect that pure oxygen might help heal those injured brain cells, and other recent studies show promising results for concussion sufferers.
“Everything in our body works on oxygen,” which acts as something like a fuel for cellular activity, Caviness said. “But no one knows” definitely if pure oxygen could help heal a bruised brain, he said. “That’s just a theory.”
For this study, some of the participants will breathe air in a hyperbaric chamber, provided and operated by a contractor, over a course of treatments and batteries of tests, while others will receive regular care for mild TBI, Caviness said. The trial is a double-blind, randomized study, so participants won’t know whether they are getting treated with pure oxygen or normal pressurized air. “They don’t know, and we don’t know,” he said.
Interested Marines — active-duty only — can contact the study coordination screening center at 877-445-3199.