Children whose brains are damaged by fetal alcohol exposure suffer from global intellectual impairments, learning disabilities, memory problems, attention deficits, poor problem-solving skills, and social and behavioral difficulties. Doctors typically consider these problems to be untreatable, but a startling new study suggests that a simple, safe intervention can dramatically reduce symptoms of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders)—even years after the damage occurs.
In a single-case study, Kenneth Stoller treated a 15-year-old boy with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS, the most severe form of FASD) using hyperbaric oxygen, a treatment commonly used for diabetic wounds, diving-related "bends," and brain injuries. The boy underwent 40 treatments, followed seven months later by an additional 33 treatments, undergoing 60 minutes of low- pressure oxygen therapy during each treatment. Before and after intervention, Stoller administered a specialized neuropsychological test battery. He reports that:
The retinal damage sometimes associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy should not be an issue in treating alcohol-damaged individuals, he says, because this damage appears to be triggered initially by hypoxia, which is not relevant to FASD.
Stoller concludes, "Low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a therapy with an extremely low risk profile and relatively low cost, with potential benefits that seem to be significant and measurable for a condition considered incurable."
Stoller notes that the treatment could help vast numbers of children, because "the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and alcohol-related birth defects combined is at least 10 cases per 1,000 births, or 1 percent of all births." Earlier research (see related articles, Crime Times, 1995, Vol. 1, No. 1, Page 3 Crime Times, 1997, Vol. 3, No. 1, Page 5 Crime Times, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 1, Page 7 Crime Times, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 4, Page 7 and Crime Times, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 4, Page 4) reveals the high societal cost of fetal alcohol exposure, which greatly increases the risk of delinquency (Stoller's own subject had already been charged with a crime), criminality, aberrant behavior, and academic, social, and vocational failure. FASD also is the leading non-hereditary cause of mental retardation and may be the leading preventable cause of learning disabilities.
"Quantification of neurocognitive changes before, during, and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a case of fetal alcohol syndrome," Kenneth P. Stoller, Pediatrics, Vol. 116, No. 4, October 2005, e586-91. Address: Kenneth P. Stoller, 404 Brunn School Road #D, Santa Fe, NM 87505, firstname.lastname@example.org.