Physicians who treat children with cerebral palsy have to maintain a positive outlook. I think that’s especially true for those of us who treat patients with hyperbaric oxygen. We all agree that cerebral palsy cannot be cured. See here, here or here. The mainstay of therapy for most of these children is physical therapy, tailored to the individual, to improve strength and mobility. Controlling seizures, muscle spasticity and other medical problems specific to individual children comprise much of the therapy these children receive. Many kids with cerebral palsy are fortunate not to have substantial cognitive difficulties and can attend regular schools. All of these treatments make life better for cerebral palsy patients and their families, but none of them help the underlying neurologic condtion.
Controversy occurs only if someone claims a certain treatment option improves the underlying neurological condition of cerebral palsy. Standard treatment, after all, is palliative. It is awfully odd that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is so harshly opposed by its critics. Because hyperbaric oxygen is the only option for cerebral palsy that claims to improve the underlying pathology, it seems to me that such a treatment ought to be embraced.
I have spent a lot of time over the years trying to figure out why hyperbaric oxygen inflames passions the way it does and I know from experience that one of the reasons is economic. Government and insurance companies have been encroaching on the doctor-patient relationship throughout my career and doctors don’t need much to put them in fear for their wallets. Hyperbaric oxygen can represent economic competition for physicians who make their living operating or medicating and doctors are all too human when they see their own indispensability challenged. I’ve found it especially sad, however, that some physicians go out of their way to discourage parents about hyperbaric oxygen for kids with cerebral palsy. As tough as economic times may be, I like to think that most physicians still have a soft spot for children, especially children who face the problems that cerebral palsy kids do.
In any case, we at Atlanta Hyperbaric love treating cerebral palsy kids. These kids will still have benefits from my treatment long after I’m gone and I can’t afford to waste any energy over those who are insecure.