Tragically, blast induced TBI and PTSD have been dramatically on the rise since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A recent Rand Report estimated that 18.3% of military service personnel deployed to these war zones have PTSD or major depression, and 19.5% have experienced a TBI.
A 2012 study on the safety and efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in military subjects with chronic blast-induced mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI), post concussive syndrome (PCS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) indicated that several symptoms were reduced by undergoing this therapy. HBOT is a medical treatment that uses greater than ambient pressure oxygen as a drug by fully enclosing an individual in a pressure vessel and then adjusting the dose of the oxygen to treat pathophysiologic processes of diseases.
The study was done with 16 participants, all male, with the average age of 30. All subjects were either active duty military or recently discharged active military. All of the participants had sustained at least one brain injury. Fourteen of the subjects had a pre-study diagnosis of TBI/PCS with PTSD, and two of the subjects had TBI/PCS.
Treatment for the subjects during the study consisted of 2 HBOT sessions, twice a day, 5 days a week. Each HBOT session lasted 60 minutes. Participants completed 40 HBOT sessions in total. At the end of the study, 12 of the 15 subjects reported improvement in their symptoms. Short temper/irritability, mood swings, imbalance, photophobia and depression, which were present in a majority of the subjects, were improved 44-93%. Additionally, 64% of the subjects who were on psychoactive or analgesic prescription medication before HBOT decreased or discontinued their medication during the study. Of those participants who noted improvement in their symptoms following the study, 92% still reported improvement six months after the study. Sixty four percent of the subjects on psychoactive and narcotic prescription medications were able to decrease or eliminate the use of these medications.
While this was just a small test group, the results seem promising and I am sure more research and study will be occurring in the years and months ahead.
 Harch PG, Andrews SR, Fogarty EF, Amen D, Pezzullo JC, Lucarini J, Aubrey C, Taylor DV, Staab PK, Van Meter KW, “A phase I study of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy for blast-induced post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.” J Neurotrauma. 2012 Jan 1;29(1):168-85. doi: 10.1089/neu.2011.1895. Epub 2011 Nov 22.