Doreen Granpeesheh and colleagues reported that a randomized trial of hyperbaric-oxygen therapy did not produce beneficial effects on children with Autism. The results of the study—double-blind, placebo controlled procedures, making it scientifically sound—showed no significant differences in direct observations of toy play, hyperactivity, appropriate vocalizations, vocal stereotypy, physical stereotypy, aggression, self-injury, property destruction or on standardized assessment employing a host of psychological measures.
Children in the treatment and control groups received 80 1-hour sessions in an HBOT chamber of, but only half of the children experienced the elevated level of supplemental oxygen while they were in the chamber. The two groups were matched for the number of hours of therapy (based on applied behavior analysis principles) that they received.
To be sure, it is difficult to argue from null findings. However, it is worth noting that this study uses rigorous procedures and strong measures, making it much more trustworthy that other research that has examined the benefit or lack of benefits of HBOT. I expressed reservations about another study of the effects of HBOT and interested readers may view EBD Blog’s earlier post about the Rossignol et al. study (see, additionally, the comments for other evidence questioning the benefits of HBOT).
Granpeesheh, D., Tarbox, J., Dixon, D. R., Wilke, A. E., Allen, M. S., & Bradstreet, J. J. (in press). Randomized trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2009.09.014
Randomized trial of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for children with autism
Doreen Granpeesheh, Jonathan Tarbox, Dennis R. Dixon, Arthur E. Wilke, Michael S. Allen and James Jeffrey Bradstreet
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are characterized by the presence of impaired development in social interaction and communication and the presence of a restricted repertoire of activity and interests. While numerous treatments for ASDs have been proposed, very few have been subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been recently popularized as a treatment for the symptoms of ASDs. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that HBOT would have a beneficial effect on ASD symptoms in the context of a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. This randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial compared HBOT used to deliver 24% oxygen at 1.3 atmospheric pressure (n = 18) to placebo (n = 16) in children with Autistic Disorder. Both direct observational measures of behaviors symptomatic of autism and standardized psychological assessments were used to evaluate the effects of the treatment. No differences were detected between HBOT and placebo groups across any of the outcome measures. The present study demonstrates that HBOT delivered at 24% oxygen at 1.3 atmospheric pressure does not result in a clinically significant improvement of the symptoms of Autistic Disorder.
The authors are affiliated with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders and the International Child Development Resource Center. The latter, with which author Bradstreet is associated, is an organization that promotes HBOT; I’m encouraged to see that it is participating in a serious scientific effort to examine this therapy.