THE VILLAGES, Fla. – A treatment long used to treat decompression sickness, serious infections and brain injuries is now being used to help veterans with PTSD at a clinic in The Villages.
Aviv Clinics Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy begins each treatment, called a “dive,” with patients entering a pressurized suite that increases oxygen levels in the body 10-15 times higher than normal.
Israeli physician Dr. Shai Efrati, M.D., is the Research Group Leader and Chair of the Aviv Scientific’s Medical Advisory Board and the director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at the Shamir Medical Center in Israel.
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He explained the clinic in Florida is the second location, along with Aviv Clinics Dubai, with more planned in the U.S.
“We started with (treating) classical injuries, like stroke, to mounting brain injury which is mechanical injury,” Efrati said.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is not new. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the treatment was first used in the U.S. in the early 20th century.
The work begins with an assessment for each individual patient, then a 12-week treatment, followed by analysis and follow-up. To complete the Aviv Program, patients must visit the clinic for 2-hour dives, five days a week, for 60 sessions.
“It’s not like you’ve been cured immediately. It’s a process, repressed memories are coming up you need to know how to handle it,” Efrati said.
Participants wear oxygen masks inside the pressurized suite to increase oxygen levels in the body. Efrati said the secret to the treatment is that it causes the body to generate stem cells.
“Stem cells are starting to go up, new blood vessels are being generated,” Efrati said. “For the first time in humans, we can see generation of new blood vessels in the brain, and generation of new neurons. We call it neurogenesis, and that’s the amazing stuff.”
A new study with veterans like Andy Smith showed positive results for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“If you want to get well you have to make this a commitment,” Smith said about his 12-week treatment.
Smith and his wife were both assessed for the treatment and recently completed the Aviv Program in The Villages.
“My initial scans that I was given — they found damage. Part of that brain was shut down, it was dark in there,” Smith said.
Smith said his results were better than average, with a 30% increase of oxygen flow to his brain.
“I wish the VA would pick this up,” Smith said. “I see a lot of guys who are just, and women, who are really messed up, and this could help them so much, I mean it breaks my heart that this can’t be made available to everyone suffering.”