There has been no major advancement in a quarter of a century for the treatment of acute severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). This review summarizes 40 years of clinical and pre-clinical research on the treatment of acute TBI with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO2) in the context of an impending National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke-funded, multi-center, randomized, adaptive Phase II clinical trial -the Hyperbaric Oxygen Brain Injury Treatment (HOBIT) trial. Thirty studies (eight clinical and 22 pre-clinical) that administered HBO2 within 30 days of a TBI were identified from PubMed searches. The pre-clinical studies consistently reported positive treatment effects across a variety of outcome measures with almost no safety concerns, thus providing strong proof-of-concept evidence for treating severe TBI in the acute setting. Of the eight clinical studies reviewed, four were based on the senior author's (GR) investigation of HBO2 as a treatment for acute severe TBI. These studies provided evidence that HBO2 significantly improves physiologic measures without causing cerebral or pulmonary toxicity and can potentially improve clinical outcome. These results were consistent across the other four reviewed clinical studies, thus providing preliminary clinical data supporting the HOBIT trial. This comprehensive review demonstrates that HBO2 has the potential to be the first significant treatment in the acute phase of severe TBI.
Keywords: Glasgow Coma Scale; Glasgow Outcome Scale; hyperbaric oxygen; normobaric hyperoxia; traumatic brain injury.