Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Veterans With Treatment-resistant PTSD: A Longitudinal Follow-up Study

Mil Med. 2022 Nov 26;usac360. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usac360. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: PTSD is common among veteran combatants. PTSD is characterized by brain changes, for which available treatments have shown limited effect. In a short-term study, we showed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) induced neuroplasticity and improved clinical symptoms of veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD. Here, we evaluated the long-term clinical symptoms of the participants of that study.

Materials and methods: Veterans from our short-term study were recruited 1 or more years after completing HBOT. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5) and self-reported questionnaires were administered at a single site visit. Changes in clinical scores between long-term, short-term, and pretreatment evaluations were analyzed.

Results: Of the 28 participants who received HBOT during or following the short-term study, 22 agreed to participate in the current study. At a mean of 704 ± 230 days after completing the HBOT course, the mean CAPS-5 score (26.6 ± 14.4) was significantly better (lower) than at the pre-HBOT evaluation (47.5 ± 13.1, P < .001) and not statistically different from the short-term evaluation (28.6 ± 16.7, P = .745). However, for the CAPS-5 subcategory D (cognition and mood symptoms), the mean score was significantly better (lower) at long-term than at short-term evaluation (7.6 ± 5.1 vs. 10.0 ± 6.0, P < .001). At the long-term compared to the pretreatment evaluation, higher proportions of the participants were living with life partners (10 (46%) vs. 17 (77%), P = .011) and were working (9 (41%) vs. 16 (73%), P = .033). Decreases were observed between pretreatment and the long-term follow-up, in the number of benzodiazepine users (from 10 (46%) to 4 (18%), P = .07) and in the median (range) cannabis daily dose (from 40.0 g (0-50) to 22.5 g (0-30), P = .046).

Conclusions: The beneficial clinical effects of HBOT are persistent and were not attenuated at long-term follow-up of about 2 years after completion of HBOT. Additional long-term effects of the treatment were observed in social function and in decreased medication use.