gettyimages 569151325 The VA is testing out hyperbaric chambers as a PTS treatment

A supervisor keeps a close eye on his patient as he spends up to two hours at a time in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber. (Photo by Joel Lugavere/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

There’s a new tool at the VA used to fight some forms of post-traumatic stress (PTS). It’s something very, very common and in fact you are using it right now.  It’s oxygen.

More specifically, it’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and it’s being used as another option for veterans who aren’t responding to standard PTS treatment options.

“There is nothing more important to us than caring for our nation’s veterans, and that care must include finding different approaches that work best for them,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We have to explore every avenue, particularly for our most medically vulnerable veterans, and be open to new ideas and strategies for their optimal health and well-being.”

In HBOT, the air pressure is bumped up three times higher than normal. Your lungs can then get more oxygen than you would be able under normal air pressure.  Then your blood takes the oxygen through your body, which helps fight bacteria.  It can also cause the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

Generally considered a safe procedure, there are a few risks involved: temporary nearsightedness, middle ear injuries, lung collapse and seizures as a result of too much oxygen. Using HBOT at the VA will only happen under the supervision of a trained physician.

Right now the VA has two sites offering this treatment. The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System is partnering with the Tulsa Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center at Oklahoma State Medical Center.  And the VA Northern California Health Care System offers this treatment at the David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base.

The VA and the Department of Defense are planning a multisite research study to examine the use of HBOT for patents with PTS in more depth.

Connect: @JonathanVets1 |

Listen Live