Cerebrovascular diseases and especially ischemic stroke are a leading cause of death. They occur mostly due to an insufficient oxygen (O2) supply to the central neural tissue as a result of thromboembolic events and/or obstructive vessel disease. The primary damage of the brain tissue cannot be restored. However, adequate therapy could minimize secondary impairment of brain tissue and restore neuronal function in the so-called “penumbra region”. Apart from reopening occluded vessels, additional O2 supply is essential for survival of malfunctioning neural tissue. Breathing of 100% O2 under hyperbaric conditions, hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO), is the only method to increase the O2 concentration in tissue with impaired blood supply. Experimental as well as clinical studies have reported a positive effect of HBO therapy. Survival rate has increased under HBO therapy and neurological outcome has improved. The optimal levels of pressure as well as duration and numbers of HBO sessions need to be specified to avoid undesirable effects. Unfortunately, many questions remain unanswered before routinely recommending HBO as additional therapy in clinical practice. In this review we consider the (patho-)physiological background of HBO-therapy, the latest results of experimental and clinical studies and stress the evidence in patients with cerebrovascular disease.
Keywords: Hyperbaric oxygenation, cerebrovascular disease, brain tissue ischemia, penumbra
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