Autism Reality

Autism & HBOT – Hyperbaric Oxygen Is NOT An Evidence Based Treatment for Autism

I have blogged previously on Hpyerbaric Oxygent Treatment as a treatment for autism. At this point in time HBOT is NOT considered to be an evidence based treatment for autism. There is a study going on which MAY or MAY NOT change that fact but for the present, as the authorities reviewed in the Chicago Tribune indicate, there is NO evidence to support the effectiveness of HBOT in treating autism.

Parents turn to long-shot therapy for autism

By Kirsten Scharnberg
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 23, 2007, 7:48 PM CDT

HONOLULU — Kalma Wong has tried almost everything for her two autistic children: special diets, intense behavioral therapies, flying in experts from the U.S. mainland at exorbitant costs.

Some efforts have yielded modest success. Others have done next to nothing.

But like many other parents of the more than 500,000 children that the Centers for Disease Control estimates to be autistic in the U.S., Wong has vowed to keep trying until she pinpoints the treatment that most helps her kids.

Her latest attempt is one of the most long-shot therapies yet, a protocol some doctors praise but that others declare to be a waste of time that gives desperate parents false hope and exploits them financially.

It is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a treatment in which pure oxygen is delivered to patients confined to pressurized chambers for an hour a day for several weeks. The theory is that the extreme doses of oxygen essentially the same kind of treatment that has been used for decades to cure divers with decompression illness will spur dormant or damaged neurons in the brain to become reinvigorated or even transformed.

In the case of children with autism, considered the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S. today, the new treatment is claimed to have produced some stunning results: transforming non-verbal children into fluent speakers; helping children hypersensitive to outside stimuli become calm enough to attend public schools; changing kids once adverse to any personal interaction or touching into affectionate toddlers.


Markley said she has treated more than 30 autistic children with HBOT and “every single child of those 33 had consistent quality-of-life improvements.” The improvements, she said, were more pronounced in kids most afflicted by the characteristics of autism: the repetitive behaviors and the impairments in sensory perception, social interaction and communication.

Critics argue that no studies have been done that use scientific models such a double-blind testing. They caution that the treatment has been tried only on a handful of children affected with autism nationwide, not nearly enough to draw valid conclusions.

“They are making extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence,” Iyama said.

Evidence is exactly what supporters of HBOT are hoping to get in the coming months. Beginning in May, the Honolulu clinic, along with some 20 hyperbaric oxygen clinics across the U.S., will launch a formal study into how autistic children respond to the therapy. A total of about 400 children will be included, and the results are to be evaluated by the National Institutes for Health.

Other studies are under way that HBOT proponents are closely watching. One of the biggest is a federally funded study on the effects of HBOT on children with cerebral palsy that is under way at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

One group watching the outcomes of these studies is the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, a non-profit group of doctors that investigates scientific claims linked to HBOT. Thus far the group has been skeptical of using HBOT to help neurological conditions such as autism or cerebral palsy.

“If we just had the evidence we’d be happy to support it. But it just isn’t there,” Dr. Donald Chandler, executive director of the UHMS, has said in statements regarding the therapy….


April 24, 2007 - Posted by | autism treatment, Chicago Tribune, evidence based treatment, HBOT, Hyperbarid Oxygen Treatment, parents


  1. I have a couple of chums who tried this – no ill effects apart from an empty pocket.
    Should I be worried that I read the name ‘Markley’ as ‘Malarky’! Slapped wrist for me!

    Comment by mcewen | April 24, 2007 | Reply

  2. Your comment that HBOT is not ”evidence based medicine” is not honest and is a bad introduction for this news article

    The UHMS cited at the end is not truthful about HBOT’s effectivness. Their definition is wrong, unscientific and misleading ! (breath 100% O2 at more than 1.4 ATA)

    Any pressure above 1 ATA at any concentration above 21% is Hyperbaric therapy, therefore increasing oxygen concentration in all body fluids !

    Curiously, all the detractors are the same claiming no link with mercury in vaccines…

    Exploiting parents ??? This is ridiculous and insulting:
    Hospital costs for HBOT ranges from 800$ to 3000$ / hour
    Private clinics: 75$ to 200$ / hour
    Community centers: 10$ to 40$ / hour

    Waste of time ? Ignore the results all you want, but please don’t suppose there isn’t any:

    When nothing else in medicine delivers as much positive and impressing results as HBOT so far, anyone criticizing this therapy is going to be embarassed… especially so-called experts or specialists who have NO EXPERIENCE with HBOT and rejecting it out of hand without initiating the badly needed research themselves. Claiming there is nothing scientific to back up its use with autism is a Big lie. If brain SPECT scans are not evidence, close every hospital tomorrow morning !

    Comment by Spiritus Hyperbaricus | August 19, 2007 | Reply

  3. The statement that there is no evidence supporting the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autistic children is dead wrong. Google on Rossignol + autism and you will see why that statement is wrong.

    My own experience is that it is helpful and it works. It is not a cure, but the improvements in my son are evident to everyone who knows him.

    Everyone responds differently – welcome to reality.

    Comment by Cort W. | December 8, 2007 | Reply

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