Local treatment shows improvement in veterans with brain damage

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People with brain damage from 40 countries have come to the New Orleans area for treatment, even though it's not covered by insurance and their doctors doubt it helps.

A local doctor recently finished another study of veterans who, in the past, were unconscious from explosions and the results show hope for these veterans. 

Lieutenant Mike Meyers remembers at least four serious head injuries while serving in the U.S. Air Force and Army for 35 years.

"If you see stars, something's happening," Meyers recalls of the blows to his head.

Then came debilitating symptoms.

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"It's like my head was in a vice and being crushed and it was only this (the left) side. I would just lay in the fetal position all, for two to 12 hours a day."

His balance, hand-eye coordination and memory were also negatively affected. He had suicidal thoughts. Prescriptions of methadone and muscle relaxers made him unable to climb up on ladders doing gutter work in his business. Then he heard about the treatment Dr. Paul Harch was doing on people with brain injuries using 40 hyperbaric oxygen dives (HBOT).

"After, I think, my 13th dive, I stopped recording the migraine and it's been four years and a month," Meyers said. 

Dr. Harch just had his latest study published on 30 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans with serious brain injuries.

"Not only that they improved cognitively and symptomatically and that their depression and anxiety was reduced, but in particular, when we finally got all the data in front of us, we found that nearly all of them were thinking of suicide before the study started, were no longer suicidal at the end of it. And 75 percent of them, who had panic attacks, were no longer having panic attacks," said Dr. Harch, Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center. 

Brain scans show the damaged brains' rough-looking tissue compared to the smooth normal brain in the control group. After 40 treatments, the veterans' brains showed improvement on the scans. He says the HBOT is affecting which genes are turned on and off.

"So every time you go in a (oxygen) chamber, we're stimulating tissue growth, stopping inflammation, and turning off cell death," explained Dr. Harch.  

A new Israeli study on hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury showed a growth of new blood vessels and tissue in the brain. 

Dr. Harch's study was published in the journal Medical Gas Research