Treatment of multiple sclerosis with hyperbaric oxygen. Results of a national registry

Arch Neurol. 1991 Feb;48(2):195-9. doi: 10.1001/archneur.1991.00530140091021.


Three hundred twelve patients were entered into a long-term study of effects of hyperbaric oxygen on multiple sclerosis. The protocol called for an initial 20 treatments in either the monoplace or multiplace chamber on a daily basis followed by monthly booster treatments for 2 years. One hundred seventy neurologists and 22 institutions provided data for this study. There was no control group, but the study was based on Schumacher's postulation that a scientifically valid study to test the efficacy of a new therapy was possible by choosing patients who were definitively diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and following them up for 2 years after the imposed treatment. If the overwhelming majority of the subjects failed to get worse over the 2-year observation period, the efficacy of the treatment would be manifest. The expanded Kurtzke Disability Status Scale (EDSS) was used to assess the severity of the disease state. The dropout rate was high with only 76% (237 of 312 patients) finishing the initial 20 treatments. Twenty-two percent (69 of 312) finished 1 year of booster therapy, and 9% (28 of 312) completed 2 years of monthly boosters. The mean deterioration on the Kurtzke EDSS score was 0.93 or almost a full step from the beginning of treatment until the last evaluation. There was no difference in outcome between those who had the shortest and longest periods of time between onset of symptoms and hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Treatment pressure made no difference in outcome. Changes in the Kurtzke EDSS score bore no relationship to the use of booster treatment. Patients who were reasonably well off at the onset of treatment with initial Kurtzke EDSS scores of 1 or 2 (n = 21) deteriorated by an average of 1.7 Kurtzke points. Those patients whose initial Kurtzke EDSS scores were greater than 2 (n = 164) deteriorated on an average of 0.82 points. Of interest was that 19.5% (39 of 200) of the patients reported a temporary improvement in bladder function, but improvement was maintained in only 11 patients (5.5%) at 2-year follow-up. Fifteen patients (7.5%) indicated long-term worsening. There was no significant change in the working status of the patients following hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Although this study treated the patients in accordance with protocols reported to produce a benefit in multiple sclerosis, we were unable to substantiate any useful long-term effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation*
  • Intestines / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Registries
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology
  • Vision, Ocular