HBOT for Developmental Disabilities including RS and CP


Earl M. Williams, Ph.D.

New Location update: Personal Note, FAQ, and Disclaimer

7/8/01 update: see links to the
latest analysis of the Montreal study of HBOT and cerebral palsy
(a French site, so scroll down to the "Version anglaise" link starting with "Analysis of the results of..."),
and the second Symposium on Cerebral Palsy and the Brain Injured Child (July 25-28, 2001)

In Spring 1999, I wrote an extensive literature review paper on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), its demonstrated application as a treatment for brain injuries, and the question of its application to developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and Rett Syndrome. The paper includes a large number of Internet links and almost 100 scientific references. The goal of the paper is to clearly synthesize important HBOT information that has not previously been presented in one place: on HBOT, the research showing its effectiveness for brain injury, the rationale for its applicability to additional neurological conditions, HBOT treatment protocols, and the data on each of its purported side effects (seen only at high pressures). As of July 2000 this paper is no longer fully current, but I hope to be able to revise it at some point. For now, the many Internet links and references in the paper will lead you to more current information. In particular, see the new 3rd edition of the "Textbook of Hyperbaric Medicine" by K. K. Jain (click here to view publisher information).

This review paper was written for three intended audiences:

HBOT involves the inhalation of 100% oxygen inside a chamber pressurized above sea-level atmospheric pressure. Medical studies have found low-pressure HBOT to be a safe and beneficial treatment for many medical conditions, although some of these conditions are not yet recognized as standard medical practice. Brain injury is one of the most significant additional indications for which low-pressure HBOT has been found to be beneficial. HBOT appears to be similarly beneficial for cerebral palsy, based on many individual cases and early clinical trials. Given the strong neurological and symptomatic similarities between brain injuries, cerebral palsy, and Rett Syndrome, HBOT may also be helpful for Rett Syndrome.

Click one of the following links to

Important Disclaimer from the Author. This literature review paper should be used for informational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical recommendation either of HBOT or of a particular HBOT protocol for any individual. I am the father of a young girl with Rett Syndrome, and recently earned my Ph.D. in cognitive developmental psychology. I am not a medical doctor or HBOT practitioner, and this paper is totally unrelated to my Ph.D. research and expertise.

A Personal Note. I'm afraid I also have little direct experience with HBOT to report. As indicated in the paper, my wife and I had planned to take our daughter for a series of 40 HBOT treatments in August 1999. In July 1999, we did a single HBOT treatment, preceded and followed by SPECT scans, in an attempt to demonstrate the kinds of short-term perfusion improvements seen in the Neubauer et al. studies. While she apparently did fine during and immediately after the single HBOT session (1.75 ATA, 60min), she did not handle the anesthesia required for the SPECT scans so well. It took her a very long time to wake up from the anesthesia after the second SPECT scan, despite a reduced dosage. Eight days later she had her first seizures ever, and they continued for approximately 1.5 weeks until we began a small daily dose of Tegretol. As far as we know, the Tegretol has fully controlled her seizures since 8/10/99.

Did the HBOT cause her seizures? It is impossible to know for sure. Girls with Rett Syndrome often begin having seizures at around her age, and my daughter had longstanding EEG abnormalities. So she may have been living very close to her seizure threshold for some time, and something pushed her over the threshold: the HBOT session, the anesthesia, an illness, or just the passage of time.

In any case, we were not able to do the planned HBOT treatments, so I have almost zero personal experience with HBOT. A bitter disappointment. In retrospect, doing the two SPECT scans was probably a bad idea because it required so much anesthesia. My personal opinion is that the HBOT probably was not the primary or only cause of her seizures, but it certainly could have been. We may try HBOT at some point in the future, but for now we have no immediate plans.

Webmasters: Do you have a HBOT-related web site of your own? You are welcome (and encouraged!) to add a link to this site on your own site. Please link to the home page and not directly to the downloadable review paper. Also, I'd appreciate it if you could send me a quick e-mail.

Please e-mail me if you have any comments about the paper (particularly corrections!). If you have questions, please first check the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page in case they are already answered there. I am always interested to hear from people who have found the paper to be useful, particularly parents who have had positive or negative HBOT experiences with their developmentally disabled children. Thanks!

I hope the paper will be useful to you!
Best wishes,
Earl Williams <>
Last revised: 011002 EMW

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