Research and Training Center on Early Childhood Development

Center for Evidence-Based Practices
Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute

Oxygen therapy for young children with cerebral palsy found ineffective.
Pam Rolandelli, Snapshots, 2002, Number 1.

J.P. Collet, M. Vanasse, P. Marios, M. Amar (2001). Hyperbaric oxygen for children with cerebral palsy: A randomized multicentre trial. Lancet, 357 (9256): 582-586.

Background: Hyperbaric oxygenation is a term used to describe a procedure in which a person receives up to 100% oxygen at an increased atmospheric pressure in an effort to revive dormant areas of the brain. This study is the first randomized clinical trial assessing the safety and possible benefits of this treatment.

Methods: A group of 111 children (3 to 12 years of age with a documented diagnosis of cerebral palsy before they were one month old) were referred from 17 rehabilitation centers in Quebec, Canada to participate in the study. Children were divided into two groups. The first group received the hyperbaric oxygen treatment (100% oxygen at a pressure of 1.75 atmospheres absolute for 60 minutes). The second group received slightly pressurized air (at 1.3 atmospheres absolute for 60 minutes). Children received the treatment one a day, five days a week, over a period of eight weeks.

Results: Children in both groups showed improvement in gross motor function; improvement was still evident three months after the study. No differences were found in relation to the treatment.

Conclusions: The researchers suggest that the improvement seen for children in both groups may be related to participation in the study in that children had the opportunity to engage in positive communication with their parents and other children. However, alternative explanations exist. The pressurized air may have provided the same benefit as the hyperbaric oxygen. Maturation also may have been a factor. This issue was not addressed in the study because there was no control group.

Recommendation: Additional studies are needed to determine whether this outcome was a result of continued exposure to a pressurized condition, a simple increase in oxygen levels or time spent with parents and other children on a regular basis. Based on this study, there is no evidence to support the use of hyperbaric oxygen as a treatment for children with cerebral palsy.

Lancet. 2001, 357 (9256): 582-586