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Pressurized Chambers Could Help Treat Traumatic Brain Injury

First Posted: 09/12/11 07:08 PM ET Updated: 11/12/11 05:12 AM ET

The U.S. military is conducting tests to see if pressurized chambers can treat traumatic brain injury, a key injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 2003, more than 134,000 people have suffered from traumatic brain injury while serving in the military, the Associated Press reported. It is caused when an object violently or suddenly hits the head, or if an object manages to enter the brain tissue.

The idea behind using a pressurized chamber to treat traumatic brain injury is that the body receives more oxygen, thereby helping the brain to heal, when it's put under pressure, the AP reported. The chamber exerts the same amount of pressure as when you are under 20 feet of water, and is already used to help SCUBA divers who suffer from decompression sickness.

Researchers are "investigating further to determine how it might help, if it does help at all," Lt. Col. Robert Price, the main study researcher of the hyperbaric oxygen study, told the AP.

Traumatic brain injury can manifest in different forms, depending on how severe it is. Mild symptoms include confusion, headache, dizziness, fatigue, mood changes and problems with memory and concentration, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Moderate and severe symptoms may also experience seizures, slurred speech, confusion and an inability to wake up from sleeping.

Not much can be done to reverse brain damage from traumatic brain injury, but if a person with the injury seeks medical attention right away it's possible to prevent further injury. Making sure that the brain and the rest of the body get enough oxygen and monitoring and controlling blood pressure are all primary concerns, according to the NINDS. For moderate or severe cases, therapy -- including speech, physical and occupational therapies -- can be used to assist with rehabilitation.

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Filed by Amanda L. Chan  |