Published on March 22, 2022

Essentia Health to study impact of hyperbaric oxygen on post-concussion adults

Essentia Health-Fargo will launch the “hyperbaric oxygen for post-concussion” study to examine the impact of hyperbaric oxygen on adults who have persistent symptoms from concussion. This study will be led by Dr. Olayinka Ajayi, a hyperbaric medicine physician; Dr. Paulina Kunecka, a neurologist; and registered nurse Sharon Hanson.

“My team and I are excited to begin this vital study designed to explore any sustained therapeutic effect hyperbaric oxygen may have among patients who are suffering due to persistent concussive symptoms,” Dr. Ajayi said. “We are hopeful that this study will provide these individuals with a path to a better quality of life.”

Patients participating in this study must have experienced an episode or episodes of concussion and still be experiencing related symptoms. The concussive episode(s) must have occurred more than three months ago and less than five years ago. Patients must be referred to this study by another health care provider. All referrals should be made to the neurology department at Essentia Health-Fargo.

Participation includes once-daily treatment of an investigational drug or placebo; 42 on-site visits in the first three months and, subsequently, four more visits over the next 21 months until the study-closeout visit; and the monitoring of side effects throughout.

This study is a collaboration between Essentia, the Dakota Medical Foundation, the University of North Dakota and the state of North Dakota.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. In a hyperbaric chamber, the air pressure is increased 2-3 times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions the lungs can gather much more oxygen than normal. The blood then carries this surplus of oxygen throughout the body, helping it fight bacteria, recruit stem cells and promote healing.

In 2021, Essentia Health-Fargo began to offer the first hospital-based HBOT in the region. Currently, Essentia uses HBOT to treat 14 conditions approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Conditions already treated by HBOT include decompression sickness, certain serious infections, bubbles of air in blood vessels and wounds that might not heal as the result of diabetes or radiation injury.