Quantification of neurocognitive changes before, during, and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a case of fetal alcohol syndrome

Pediatrics. 2005 Oct;116(4):e586-91. doi: 10.1542/peds.2004-2851. Epub 2005 Sep 15.


Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most common nonhereditary cause of mental retardation, with deficits in general intellectual functioning, learning, memory, attention, and problem-solving. Presented here is the first case in which measured neurocognitive abilities were determined before, during, and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a case of FAS involving a teenage male patient. Memory, reaction time, and visual motor speed assessments were compared. After 40 hyperbaric treatments with 100% oxygen at 1.5 atmospheres absolute, the patient's performance in 6 of 6 categories of the computer-administered test battery improved. Word composite (verbal) scores improved from 55% to 73%, memory composite (visual) scores improved from 38% to 55%, reaction time composites improved from 1.03 to 0.53 seconds, impulse control composite scores improved from 8 to 5, and visual motor speed scores improved from 18.6 to 19.03. The patient's subjective symptoms diminished 94%. Six months after these treatments, the patient's verbal memory was maintained at 73% without any other interventions; impulsivity continued to improve, whereas other indices did not. Thirty-three additional treatments continued to improve test performance, with verbal memory at 95%, visual memory at 57%, and a 100% reduction of subjective symptoms. This patient, with 15-year-matured FAS, benefited from a short course of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy, sustained durable cognitive improvements, and continued to exhibit improvement with another short course of treatments.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / psychology
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation*
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time