!Stroke is a medical emergency.
Know the stroke warning signs and call 9-1-1 right away if you think someone might be having a stroke.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Approval Status

No Clearance by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

No Approval by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS)

! Read the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) position paper on off-label hyperbaric treatment:
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Don't Be Misled, published 22 August 2013.

About Clearance and Approval


Definition and Causes

Stroke, or brain attack, is a disruption of blood flow to the brain. Brain cells and tissue deprived of oxygen and nutrients will begin to die within minutes. Early treatment can minimize damage and potential long-term complications. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US and a leading cause of disability. Death rates have declined in the last 20 or 30 years, thanks to raised awareness of major risk factors—high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol—and advancements in stroke treatment.

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. In ischemic stroke, accounting for about 85 percent of all cases, a blood clot obstructs a vessel that supplies the brain. In hemorrhagic stroke, accounting for about 15 percent of cases, a broken blood vessel disrupts the flow to the brain. Whatever the cause, symptoms of stroke include sudden dizziness, blurred or double vision, severe headache, vomiting, altered consciousness, and numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the face or body.

Evidence Index

FDA cleared, widely reimbursed
Strong body of evidence
Repeatedly favorable results
Early or mixed results
Unfavorable or no evidence
Strong evidence against HBOT

Treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Some physicians prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as an adjunct to approved stroke therapies in the expectation that by increasing the circulation of oxygenated blood in the brain HBOT may help reduce the extent of brain damage from swelling and inadequate blood supply, and possibly speed recovery and rehabilitation. HBOT has been approved for patients with intracranial abscess and acute traumatic ischemias on a similar medical basis.

But there is little clinical evidence to support this position and substantial further research is required to determine if HBOT should be endorsed for routine treatment of stroke patients.

HyperbaricLink Commentary

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is not an active area of stroke research involving humans in the United States, although a few related studies completed since 2010 have yet to publish results. In a 2014 update to a 2004 Cochrane Intervention Review, the authors concluded: “Too few patients have been studied to say whether HBOT decreases the chance of dying, and only three trials have suggested improvement in the ability to do everyday tasks. Overall, little evidence is currently available to support the use of HBOT for people with stroke.” [ Cochraine, 2014 doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004954.pub3 ]

The authors of a 2014 review of HBOT treatment of acute ischemic stroke (AIS) concluded: “the safety and effectiveness of HBO treatment on acute ischemic stroke remains to be further studied.” [ Interventional Neurology, 2014 doi:10.1159/000362677 ]

Based on the lack of a bellweather study and the number of answers still needed to define a treatment protocol, we rate the clinical evidence for treatment of stroke with hyperbaric oxygen therapy as Scant. In doing so we give deference to US-based researchers, noting that clinicians in other countries are more aggressive in their use of HBOT for stroke.

Patient Resources

HyperbaricLink recommends the following websites for anyone seeking authoritative information, patient advocacy, and community support for stroke.

American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of stroke. Note in particular their website's Life After Stroke section, which provides information for stroke patients and their caregivers.

US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a comprehensive, evidience-based information resource about stroke, including risk factors, treatments, research, and data. Healthcare consumers can rely on the CDC for and unbiased scientific information about this condition.

Clinical Resources

Start with the following resources to explore current research activities and the peer-reviewed medical literature on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke.

 Use the search buttons below to go directly to research on hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
US National Institutes of Health keeps the official list of human clinical trials currently enrolling, in progress, and recently completed. One may reasonably question the size and legitimacy of any study not listed here.


Cochrane Stroke Group

The Cochrane Stroke Group maintains a comprehensive register of stroke trials and produces clinical reviews of stroke research published in the Cochrane Library.


HBOEvidence uses computerized tools to appraise the key randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in the hyperbaric medical literature. One may reasonably question the overall strength of HBOT evidence for any disease or condition not covered here.

Search HBOEvidence
US National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health

PubMed keeps the official list of scientific papers published in reputable peer-reviewed medical journals. One may reasonably question the importance and legitimacy of any study not listed here.



News About Stroke and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Related Terms

  • Acute ischemic stroke
  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia
  • Ataxia
  • Cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
  • Dysarthria
  • Dysphagia
  • Embolic stroke
  • Hemiparesis
  • Hemiplegia
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Thrombic stroke


US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Stroke Information Page. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
What Is Stroke? National Stroke Association. Retrieved 02 May 2015.
Page Data
Updated: 08 Aug 2015 10:52 PM
Created: 05 Oct 2009 12:00 AM
By: About the authors »