Thanks in part to the efforts of a U.S. congressman, Marines and sailors aboard Camp Lejeune will be eligible to participate in a medical study involving hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Congressman Walter B. Jones has succeeded in advocating for their inclusion in the study that focuses on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The non-invasive procedure exposes the body to 100-percent oxygen at high pressure . Patients enters a clear chamber for a period of time while the pressure and oxygen levels increase to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine website.
The study is conducted by Dr. Paul Harch, the Department of Internal Medicine director at Louisiana State University School of Medicine and a clinical professor.
In a 2012 study, Harch found “blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are diagnoses of particular concern in the United States because of the volume of affected servicemen and women from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
According to Jason Lowry with Congressman Jones’ office, the study will be open to all active duty Marines and sailors who qualify. The 12-week study involves an initial evaluation, treatment and post-treatment tests conducted at Louisiana State University School of Medicine.
Transportation to Louisiana will be provided by a nonprofit; lodging, meals and transportation to the facility will be provided by a nearby Naval air station.
“I am convinced Marines and soldiers who have hyperbaric oxygen therapy for PTSD and TBI that treatment does work,” Jones said. “This kind of treatment is not dependant on medication, so no one gets depressed because of medication side effects.”
Harch’s 2012 study found that participants undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy “demonstrated significant improvements … in symptoms, abnormal physical exam findings, cognitive testing, and quality-of-life measurements…”
Jones said he tried for two years to open Harch’s study to Marines and sailors aboard Camp Lejeune.
In June 2015, Jones requested by letter the help of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton, Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters and Commandant of the Gen. Robert Neller.
These letters were shared with The Daily News by Congressman Jones’ office.
Brig. Gen. David Furness, with Commandant Gen. Robert Neller’s office, wrote to Jones’ office on Nov. 29, 2016, to say there is no scientific evidence that this therapy is any better than placebo therapy for mild TBI.
“The current medical position remains that the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy does not appear to be an effective treatment modality for these conditions,” Furness wrote.
Despite difference of opinion on the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the remains supportive of “permitting Marines to voluntarily participate in Dr. Hatch’s Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy study.”
According to the letter, participation must be voluntary and leadership will not direct, encourage or influence participation. The estimated number of Marines who meet the eligible criteria for participation in this study is very small.
The Public Affairs Office at the Naval Hospital wrote in an email to The Daily News that service members interested in the study can request information through their medical providers. For study details, refer to the study program manager at LSU. For more information about the study, visit hbottbistudy.org or contact the study coordinator at 504-427-5632.
Reporter Naomi Whidden can be reached at Naomi.Whidden@JDNews.com or 910-219-8474.
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