Dr. Paul Harch MD Clinical Professor and Director of Hyperbaric Medicine LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as Potential Therapy for Alzheimer’s Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Paul Harch MD Clinical Professor and Director of Hyperbaric Medicine LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine

Dr. Harch

Dr. Paul Harch MD
Clinical Professor and Director of Hyperbaric Medicine
LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The background is a 30 year clinical experience and investigation in which I explored the effects of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) on acute, subacute, and chronic neurological conditions.

Beginning with brain-injured Louisiana boxers and commercial divers in the late 1980s I attempted to see if patients with central nervous system disorders could respond to a lower dosing of the drug hyperbaric oxygen therapy than was traditionally used for other wound conditions like diabetic foot wounds, radiation wounds, and decompression sickness (the “bends”).  I was successful with the very first cases after which I expanded this treatment to nearly 90 neurological conditions.  The very first patient was a boxer 23 years after his last bout who was formally diagnosed with dementia pugulistica (dementia from boxing).

Since that time I have treated over 100 patients with cognitive decline or dementia, including 11 Alzheimer’s cases.  Nearly all of the Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases were documented with high-resolution brain blood flow imaging (SPECT).  The present case report was the first Alzheimer’s case that I was able to document with PET metabolic imaging.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The main findings were a marked symptomatic improvement and concomitant global increase in brain metabolism, including to the areas of the brain typically abnormal in Alzheimer’s Dementia.  What was so surprising was the magnitude of the improvement.  To our literature search this was the largest increase in resting brain metabolism for any therapy for Alzheimer’s ever documented with PET imaging.  Additionally, with intermittent further HBOT and low-dose Aricept the patient did not show progressive decline in symptoms and cognition (Folstein Mini-Mental Status Exam) in the ensuing two years. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: That hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s Dementia by itself and when combined with other therapies.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response:  Formal review of all of my Alzheimer’s cases and a randomized trial.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response:  Yes. Further strengthening the findings of this single case report, there is an animal study that supports my decades of HBOT case experience in Alzheimer’s Dementia and experimental evidence that demonstrates a beneficial effect of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on the underlying disease processes in Alzheimer’s. In addition, the article used a creative video formatting technique where the PET imaging was presented as easily-viewed movies of the side-by-side comparison scans before and after HBOT.  The rotating three-dimensional whole brain surface views, in particular, enable appreciation of the effects of the HBOT for the lay public as well as non-radiologist physicians.

Any disclosures? Yes, I am the owner of a small company, Harch Hyperbarics, Inc., that performs consulting and renders expert opinions.


Paul G Harch, EdwardF Fogarty. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s dementia with positron emission tomography imaging: A case report. Medical Gas Research, 2018; 8 (4): 181 DOI: 10.4103/2045-9912.248271

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Last Updated on January 28, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD