A stroke or cerebral infarction is an acute condition caused by poor circulation and supply of blood to certain areas of the brain, resulting usually in motoric weakness of limbs to various degrees and impairment of speech, vision and often balance as well. About 6 million people suffer from stroke worldwide each year, while younger people are affected more and more frequently.
Although the human brain represents only 2% of the total weight of a person, it consumes up to 20% of the total oxygen required for the entire human body in order to function properly. The cerebral infarct interrupts the blood flow to a certain part of the brain and therefore cuts off the supply of oxygen.
In the early phase, the function of brain cells is impaired, which is renewable if there is renewed oxygen supply to the brain. However, with a prolonged lack of oxygen the brain cells die, which leads to permanent brain damage and the resulting movement or speech deficit.
How does the hyperbaric oxygen therapy help in treatment of acute stroke?
The application of hyperbaric oxygen therapy after a stroke can improve the oxygen supply to the affected area of the brain and thus prevent further damage and avert the death of brain cells.
The inhaled oxygen at increased pressure reaches a higher concentration in blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid and gets into the areas of cerebral infarction, where the blood flow is still or significantly restricted.
The sooner the treatment begins, the more brain tissue can be saved from a permanent damage. It is particularly valid for the peripheral areas of cerebral infarction – the so-called dormant or frozen neurons that have slow metabolism due to insufficient oxygen supply. The results of several studies suggest, however, that the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy lead to “awakening of the dormant brain cells” and result in improved brain function even after several years after overcoming cerebral infarction.