Oxygen to the Rescue

Oxygen to the Rescue

Julian Whitaker, MD

More than three-quarters of a million Americans suffer a stroke each year. If it happens to you or a loved one, the most important action you can take is to call 911 and get to a hospital as soon as possible. Immediate treatment can make all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, fewer than 25 percent of patients arrive at the hospital in a timely manner, which is one reason why stroke is our third-leading cause of death and number-one cause of disability.

That’s why I want to tell you about the second most important action: Get treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). It’s your best hope for regaining function and avoiding a lifetime of disability.

Oxygen Revives the Brain

The reason strokes cause so much damage is because they reduce oxygen supply to the brain. If blocked blood vessels aren’t opened right away with clot-busting drugs or other therapies, neurons in the affected area die. That damage cannot be undone.

However, there’s a surrounding network of neurons that, although they don’t die outright, take a hit. Called the penumbra, this is the target of HBOT. Breathing 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber dramatically increases oxygen concentrations in the penumbra and in cells throughout the body. In fact, HBOT is far and away the best known method of delivering oxygen to tissues with a poor blood supply.

This welcomed infusion of oxygen revives damaged brain cells and prevents further neuronal death, and more neurons come back to life with each treatment. HBOT also decreases cerebral swelling, enhances neurogenesis, and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels, so benefits continue to accrue after treatment is complete. The result is an often-astounding return of function—even in “hopeless” patients who are treated months or years after their strokes.

Despite hyperbaric oxygen’s efficacy as a treatment for stroke and a wide variety of other conditions, it is all but ignored by conventional physicians. You’ll have to do some searching for a facility that offers HBOT, but I promise it will be well worth the effort.


  • For information on receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.


  • Al-Waili NS, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of patients with cerebral stroke, brain trauma, and neurologic disease. Adv Ther. 2005 Nov-Dec;22(6):659–678.
  • Fischer BR, et al. Rationale of hyperbaric oxygenation in cerebral vascular insult. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2010 Jan 1. Epub ahead of print.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

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