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Hyperbaric Oxygen and Stroke Victims

June 12, 1996

The L.A. Times should be congratulated for the timely article on the use of hyperbaric oxygen (May 2, "A Healing Atmosphere"). It is a very much underused but very beneficial therapy for a variety of medical conditions.

As mentioned in the article, I am the "operator" of six hyperbaric chambers and have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of patients who suffer chronically from the effects of a stroke for the past five years.

The article stated that the American Stroke Assn. considers "HBO for stroke experimental." This is not true. The American Stroke Assn. approves and recommends the use of hyperbaric oxygen for the treatment of both acute and chronic stroke cases. The American College of Hyperbaric Medicine, the International Oxidative Medical Assn. and the Assn. of Eclectic Physicians also approve its use.

My facility is the first clinic in this country to open specifically to treat stroke and brain-injured patients by the synergistic use of hyperbaric oxygen, physical therapy, nutrition, biofeedback, etc., in a comprehensive manner.

In your article, some discussion was given by physicians who stated various reasons why hyperbaric oxygen couldn't possibly work for a person suffering from the effects of a stroke that occurred many years before, since the "brain cells do not regenerate" or die from "toxic chemicals" soon after the stroke.

Studies have shown that hyperbaric oxygen-induced, newly formed blood vessels bring fresh blood (oxygen) and nutrients to damaged tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen does not resurrect dead brain tissue but does assist the brain's wound-healing capabilities.

It is true that most insurance companies, including Medicare, pay for treatment if the condition is one that the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society recognizes as benefiting from HBO.

Since this organization does not recognize the use of HBO for treatment of stroke and brain damage, [our patients] must come up with the money themselves. Our local hospitals won't generally work with an individual who wants to try HBO for an "unapproved use."

I invite my critics to read the medical literature, take a tour of our facilities and talk with my patients before dismissing what I and other physicians and patients have found to be a safe and effective therapy for stroke and brain-damaged individuals.

DAVID A. STEENBLOCK, M.S., D.O.

Medical Director,

Health Restoration Center

Mission Viejo

Chairman, International Oxidative Medical Assn.

*

Editor's note: A correction on the position of the eight-member, San Clemente-based American Stroke Assn. was published May 21. It is the National Stroke Assn., which has 8,310 members and is based in Englewood, Colo., that considers the use of hyperbaric oxygen for stroke experimental.

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