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Unveiling the Silent Epidemic: Understanding Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

By Kristen Reynolds, MD of Forum Health Brookfield and Mequon

 

Did you know that mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is often referred to as a “silent epidemic,” according to the US Army 

 

And the reason is because 2.5 million individuals annually suffer from TBIs according to The Brain Trauma Foundation. Anyone can be affected, from children to adults, and military service members to NFL players. mTBI is one of the most common causes of ongoing neurological disorders worldwide.  

 

What is a mTBI?

A mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), often referred to as a concussion, is a type of brain injury that typically occurs after a blow or jolt to the head or body that disrupts normal brain function temporarily. Despite being termed “mild,” mTBI can still cause significant symptoms and impairments. 

 

Common causes of mTBI include falls, sports-related injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults. The hallmark feature of mTBI is a brief loss of consciousness, if any, and a change in mental status, such as confusion, memory problems, or disorientation, immediately following the injury. However, it’s important to note that loss of consciousness is not required for a diagnosis of mTBI. 

 

Symptoms of a mTBI 

Many individuals may not recognize they’ve experienced a concussion, though it can result in various chronic health issues, such as: 

 

  • Persistent headaches 
  • Cognitive dysfunction 
  • Emotional and psychological issues 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Sensory issues 
  • Balance and coordination problems  
  • Post-concussion syndrome 

 

What is Post-Concussion Syndrome? 

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a complex disorder in which symptoms persist for weeks to months after sustaining a concussion or mTBI. These symptoms can significantly impact daily life and may include: 

  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness and vertigo 
  • Brain fog, memory issues, difficulty concentrating 
  • Fatigue 
  • Mood swings 
  • Sensitivity to stimuli 
  • Insomnia 

 

PCS often manifests with non-specific symptoms, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. It can vary in severity and duration and not everyone who experiences a concussion develops PCS.  

 

HBOT: The Solution for mild TBI and Post-Concussion Syndrome 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a safe and effective medical treatment that addresses the root cause to help heal the brain and eliminate chronic symptoms. It involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, typically in a chamber where the air pressure is higher than normal atmospheric pressure.  

 

The increased pressure allows oxygen to dissolve and saturate more effectively in the blood system, which yields a broad array of positive physiological, biochemical and cellular effects including:
 

  • Tissue repair 
  • Reducing inflammation and swelling  
  • Stimulating stem cell production and migration 
  • Increases growth factors in the brain 
  • Reduces apoptosis (cell death) 
  • Alleviates oxidative stress 
  • Increases red blood cell flexibility so cells can squeeze through small capillaries better to get to vital organs such as the brain 
  • Increases antioxidant enzymes 

 

Both Veterans Affairs and the NFL now use HBOT for veterans and athletes with mTBI, concussions and post-concussion syndrome recognizing its potential to alleviate symptoms and promote recovery. 

 

 It’s recommended to start HBOT as soon as possible after a concussion, ideally within 72 hours.  HBOT can also help years later, but it is not advised to postpone treatment. 

 

Our providers recommend 60–90-minute HBOT sessions twice daily if possible. 

 

Start Your Healing Journey 

At Forum Health, our dedicated providers offer personalized care designed around your unique needs. Utilizing HBOT, we enhance healing and support your body’s natural recovery processes, ensuring optimal care tailored to you. 

 

 If you’re experiencing symptoms of mTBI or have been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, contact us today to see how we can help! 

 

 

References 

  1. Mayo Clinic 
  2. US Army 
  3. International Hyperbarics Association (IHA) 
  4. Treating Sports Concussions with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy 
  5. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Improve Post Concussion Syndrome Years after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury – Randomized Prospective Trial 

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