"These patients don't have a whole lot of options," says Dr. Laurie Gesell, director of the Division of Hyperbaric Medicine in the UC's Department of Emergency Medicine, who's leading the study.
"They have a devastating disease, they have a brain tumor, which has significant morbidity associated with it," she
"They then get treated aggressively to try to treat that horrific disease.
"They end up with a complication that can have just as much significant morbidity or mortality as the disease itself."
Gesell is working with University Hospital's new Brain Radionecrosis Center, the only facility in the country participating in the two-year, $450,000 study.
It's funded by the National Cancer Institute
, through the National Institutes of Health
explains the problem this way.
So when it's first diagnosed, doctors might just watch it, Gesell
If patients start showing clinical symptoms, they're put on steroids.
"If the steroids don't control the progressive injury pattern, the dose of the steroids will increase and increase and increase," Gesell
"But there are complications and side effects from the steroids, which can be just as devastating for individuals' health," she
Although more study needs to be done to determine how many people develop side effects from brain radiation therapy, about 200,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with either primary or secondary brain tumors, says Gesell
"Physicians have become more aggressive in treating these brain tumors in order to get better outcomes for their patients," Gesell
"That also means that the incidence of problems and complications from the radiation has also increased."
Knowing that hyperbaric oxygen treatment is the standard of care for conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, hard-to-heal wounds, crush injuries, decompression sickness and a host of other conditions, doctors at University began using hyperbaric treatments on the patients with the conciliation -- known as brain radionecrosis -- about six years ago.
The treatment involves placing the patient in a pressure chamber and having the patient breathe pure oxygen at a pressure similar to being under 33 to 66 feet of seawater, Gesell
Each treatment lasts 1 1/2 hours.
Treatments are repeated every day for one to three months.
Preliminary results are promising, Gesell
In many patients, damaged tissues have been healed completely.
In about 86 percent of cases, doctors were able to stabilize or decrease the steroids dosage.
In some cases, patients even were able to stop taking steroids.
MRIs showed that the disease had stabilized or improved in 78 percent of patients, Gesell
Armed with the results, doctors applied for the funding for the current study.
Doctors believe the pure oxygen at increased pressure causes new blood vessels to grow in injured tissue, but no one is sure exactly how, says Gesell
team of researchers at UC
and the Neuroscience Institute set up the Brain Radionecrosis Center
to study not only how well hyperbaric oxygen therapy works, but also the mechanism that enables it to work.
The initial study, known as a pilot trial, will involve only 30 patients, but researchers have already been receiving calls from all over the nation, Gesell