I recently received the following paper from Professor Philip James.

“Oxygen Treatment for Children with Autism

Philip B James Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Dundee

Until the 1990s few children were labelled as ‘autistic’ and it is clear that the recent epidemic is not because of better diagnosis, it is because some aspect of the medical management of children at birth or in early childhood has changed.

The blood vessels of the brain are different to those in the rest of the body; they form a barrier because many substances present in blood are toxic. The barrier, known as the blood-brain barrier or ‘BBB’ needs energy to work properly and so is affected by lack of oxygen. Brain damage due to failure of the BBB can occur at any time during life but especially, as MRI has shown, at birth. After an initial insult the barrier may remain damaged as it is, for example, in multiple sclerosis patients.

Medical practice lags well behind the latest research findings about oxygen from biological scientists and oxygen is simply regarded as necessary for the production of energy. However, it has been shown that oxygen levels control genes including those responsible for new blood vessel formation, the control of inflammation and the release of stem cells into the circulation. These processes apply to the repair of all tissues but especially the brain.

Breathing is necessary to gain oxygen for normal function but also for recovery from injury or illness. Unfortunately, injury and disease involve blood vessels and this often restricts the delivery of oxygen just when it is most needed for repair Misunderstandings about the toxicity of oxygen have generally clouded judgement about the use of high levels in treatment. Enormous experience exists in aviation, space and underwater medicine about the safety of using oxygen in treatment.

To significantly increase the level of oxygen carried in the blood needs a pressure chamber and it is well-established, if not well-known, that giving a high level of oxygen for just one hour a day may promote the repair of tissues when all other medical interventions have failed. In other words giving more oxygen extends the envelope of natural recovery.

There is no substitute for oxygen and if giving more does not help a patient it is not because oxygen does not ‘work’ it is because the damage has gone too far to allow normal recovery. However, the key question is how many treatment sessions are needed and this is a difficult problem because the treatment is time consuming.

The original studies of oxygen treatment for multiple sclerosis sufferers used a course of 20 sessions and this number was also used for the controlled studies. Over the last 27 years the UK charity centres have also used an initial course of 20 sessions followed by weekly maintenance sessions because MS is a progressive illness. A course of 20 sessions on a daily basis for five days a week means that a course can be completed in a month. If assessment shows continued improvement the course can be repeated after a suitable interval and most centres report using a gap of four weeks. The evidence supports using oxygen by hood at 1.5 ata or 1.75 ata using a mask. However benefit has been reported at pressures as low as 1.3 ata with 24% oxygen. March 2009”