Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is not an effective treatment or cure for autism the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced August 22. Companies and websites claiming hyperbaric oxygen can treat or cure autism are misleading the public, according to the FDA.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are medical devices and regulated by the FDA. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a person breathes pure oxygen while in a sealed chamber, reports the Mayo Clinic. This therapy is approved for some medical conditions including decompression sickness, burns and bubbles of air in blood vessels (embolism). The FDA's website lists the approved uses for HBOT.
The FDA is concerned that consumers will use HBOT instead of proven therapies. "Patients may incorrectly believe that these devices have been proven safe and effective for uses not cleared by FDA, which may cause them to delay or forgo proven medical therapies," says Nayan Patel, a biomedical engineer in FDA's Anesthesiology Devices Branch. "In doing so, they may experience a lack of improvement and/or worsening of their existing condition(s)."
Patients using HBOT expose themselves to some potentially serious risks including paralysis. "If you're considering using HBOT, it's essential that you first discuss all possible options with your health care professional," Patel says. "Whatever treatment you're getting, you need to understand its benefits and risks. Your health care professional can help you determine which treatment is your best option."
There is no cure for autism, but there are approved therapies according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two antipsychotic drugs are approved by the FDA for some children with autism who have severe behavioral problems. Other treatments include:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language Therapy
- Sensory integration therapy
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
More information on these treatments for autism is available on the CDC's website.