Veterans with traumatic brain needed for hyperbaric oxygen therapy research

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana has put $1 million toward hyperbaric oxygen therapy research.

Indiana was the first state to use public funds for what is considered experimental, or off-label, treatment of traumatic brain injuries. The program was just getting started when the coronavirus pandemic hit.  

A multicolored brain scan from the first Indiana veteran enrolled in the program is one of the many pieces being collected by the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering on Purdue University’s campus is conducting the research. 

The pandemic slowed the research to a crawl and eventually most of the volunteers dropped out the program. For the research to be complete, the researchers need 39 more veterans to sign up.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or what is commonly called HBOT, has not been approved for traumatic brain injuries by the Veterans Administration.  Art Terlup, a former Air Force captain, is administering the research program. “I would almost say holistic ways to that do work that don’t require four different prescription to do this thing as a scientist I remain objective in my assessment of it, but there this a lot of evidence that this can do good.”

In October 2019, News 8 introduced Chuck Lee. Lee showed pictures from his days with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. During his tenure in the Army, Lee suffered a number of injuries and was prescribed every pain medication you can think of. Eventually, the pain meds stopped working and he found hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  

Lee went from being in a wheelchair. He credits the hyperbaric therapy for his recovery.

President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that directs the Veterans Administration to provide HBOT therapy to veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. 

Terlup believes the Purdue HBOT research is the most comprehensive study underway, but he needs veterans to finish the project. “But in terms of what we are trying to do and where we are coming from, we are right where we were about a year ago. We got our approval for using our labs with COVID safety precautions in place for the MRI facility. Our HBOT facility down in Clark is good to go. Everything looks good.”

The funding from the state has time restrictions. Purdue will need an extension from the Indiana General Assembly to ensure the funding stays intact.  

Researchers have access to one hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber in southern Indiana. They need the Indiana State Department of Health to approve to access others in the state.

The research will take about a year to complete.