The original study that generated interest in hyperbaric oxygen and MS was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1983 (1). In this study of 17 people with MS, 12 showed improvement and 5 had long-lasting improvement. In addition to this clinical study, animal studies have produced positive results. In animals, hyperbaric oxygen protects against experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE), an experimental form of MS.
Advocates of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for MS cite the positive clinical study from 1983. However, seven studies performed after the 1983 study did not demonstrate any consistent therapeutic effect for hyperbaric oxygen. In a few studies, a mild improvement in bladder problems was noted. A 1995 review of hyperbaric oxygen treatment trials in MS concluded that hyperbaric oxygen did not produce significant benefits in MS and that this therapy should not be used for MS (2). Another analysis of hyperbaric oxygen trials in MS, published in 2004, concluded that this therapy did not produce consistent evidence for a therapeutic effect, should not be used on a routine basis, and should not be investigated further in MS (3). The methodology and the interpretation of the results of past trials of hyperbaric oxygen in MS have been criticized (4).
Hyperbaric oxygen is an accepted therapy for a limited number of specific medical conditions. For example, it is an effective treatment for burns and severe infections. Other rare uses included decompression sickness (as a result of deep-sea diving), carbon monoxide poisoning, air bubbles in the blood stream caused by medical procedures, and tissue injury caused by radiation exposure.
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