Text Size: a  |   a 

Using a Hyperbaric Chamber with MS

September 1, 2016

Despite the development of some new and sophisticated therapies to control the inflammation and physical symptoms of multiple sclerosis, these therapies still do not work for everybody. MS comes in many different shapes and sizes, so naturally one treatment does not fit all. Perhaps for this reason people with MS are turning to alternative means of controlling their condition.

Many of the 100,000 people with MS in the US and UK have taken control of their disease by managing their treatment. With the assistance of 60 or more independent charitable MS therapy centers, people with the disease regularly enter a chamber and breathe oxygen under moderate pressure (hyperbaric oxygen).

The air we normally breathe contains 21% oxygen, but 100% oxygen is considered a drug and is prescribed in hospitals to aid people’s recovery. In the case of MS, people self-prescribe the hyperbaric oxygen, which is delivered to them by trained operators. The question is does breathing in this air frequently benefit them in the long run.  

In 1970, two Romanian doctors, Boschetty and Cernoch, treated patients with brain injuries with pressurised oxygen to help more oxygen enter their tissues – oxygen helps protect nerve cells from damage and maintains the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. In a study of MS patients, they found that symptoms in 15 out of 26 volunteers improved. This led to further interest in the use of hyperbaric oxygen to treat MS specifically.

Since Boschetty and Cernoch’s discovery, around 14 clinical trials have been conducted. The trials have been on relatively small numbers of people and have reported conflicting results, ranging from great improvements to none at all.

The clinical regulatory bodies in the US and the UK, the FDA and NICE respectively, do not feel the clinical trial evidence is strong enough to endorse the procedure, yet thousands of people in the UK and elsewhere continue to treat themselves with hyperbaric oxygen. Between 1982 and 2011, over 20,000 people with MS in the UK used hyperbaric oxygen over 2.5m times.