In February 2016, 2-year-old Eden Carlson drowned in a family swimming pool. She was submerged in the water for 15 minutes. Her heart did not beat on its own for two hours, and Eden suffered brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation during the incident.
First Known Case Of Brain Damage Reversal
Now, just months after the accident, doctors reported that they were able to successfully return the child's ability to walk and talk. Using an oxygen therapy, they were able to reverse the severe brain injury, in what is believed to be the world's first case of brain damage reversal.
The doctors gave the child oxygen, with pressure higher than the general atmospheric pressure to wake up her brain. The treatment called hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involved increasing the amount of oxygen in Carlson's blood and repairing her damaged tissue in a sealed and pressurized chamber.
Normobaric Oxygen Therapy And Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
During the initial stages of the treatment, the toddler was given oxygen treatments at "normobaric level," or sea level, which is the so-called normobaric oxygen therapy. It was administered 55 days after the drowning incident and was done twice per day for 45 minutes per treatment. This helped the child regain her arm and hand movements, as well as her partial ability to eat and speak in short spurts.
After three weeks, the toddler proceeded to being administered hyperbaric oxygen therapy, during which she was given pure oxygen at pressures higher than that of the atmosphere within a special chamber called hyperbaric chamber.
The toddler was moved to a New Orleans hospital to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In just 10 sessions, Carlson's mother said that her child was back to near normal. The toddler was even able to walk and speak better than before the incident. She was also observed to have marked improvements in all of her motor and neurological functions, and cognition tests.
The MRI scan taken 162 days after the incident revealed that Carlson still has mild residual brain injury but the cortical and white matter atrophy that the child suffered was almost fully reversed.
"Subacute normobaric oxygen and HBOT were able to restore drowning-induced cortical gray matter and white matter loss, as documented by sequential MRI, and simultaneous neurological function, as documented by video and physical examinations," the doctors who treated Carlson reported in Medical Gas Research.
Oxygen Treatments For Brain Damage
Doctors said that the oxygen treatments, which helped with the dramatic reversal of Carlson's severe brain damage, encourage the brain cells to survive and reduce swelling.
"The startling regrowth of tissue in this case occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration," said Paul Harch, director of hyperbaric medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.
"Although it's impossible to conclude from this single case if the sequential application of normobaric oxygen then HBOT would be more effective than HBOT alone, in the absence of HBOT therapy, short duration, repetitive normobaric oxygen therapy may be an option until HBOT is available."