Shai Efrati, MD: Assessing Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Neurodegeneration


The director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center offers takeaways on hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“Today, people speak a lot about [coronavirus], but the major threat to Western society that is growing from ear-to-ear is age-related functional decline. This is the number one threat.”

In the past several years, the literature showing the possible utility of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in neurologic disease has been growing. Shai Efrati, MD, a pioneer of the treatment, and colleagues published findings just last year showing its potential in patients with post-stroke cognitive issues.1 Now, they’ve taken early-stage steps and begun to assess the therapy as a possible treatment for dementia.

They conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial of 63 healthy older adults comparing the oxygen therapy to placebo treatment for 3 months. The data suggest that the hyperbaric oxygen treatment induced cognitive enhancements in those aging adults via mechanisms involving regional changes in cerebral blood flow, as evaluated by perfusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

To find out more about the study, NeurologyLive inquired with Efrati, who is the director of the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center, and an associate professor in the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University. He detailed the thought process behind the work and offered his takeaways for some of the results.

1. Efrati S, Fishlev G, Bechor Y, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen induces late neuroplasticity in post-stroke patients--randomized, prospective trial. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53716. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053716.
2. Amir H, Malka DK, Gil S, et al. enhancement of healthy older adults using hyperbaric oxygen: a randomized controlled trial. Aging. 2020; 12(13):13740–13761. doi: 10.18632/aging.103571
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