The medical benefits of oxygen and hyperbaric therapy are to be studied in Canada, with the intention of proving the controversial therapy’s worth and eventually implementing the establishment of further treatment centres across the country.

Hyperbaric therapy involves the medical use of oxygen at a higher than atmospheric pressure and is thought to provide a solution for a number of ailments. Patients lie down inside a chamber that is then filled with 100% pressurised oxygen, which stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and improves the flow of blood to areas with reduced circulation.

The therapy also boosts white blood cell activity in damaged areas, helping to control infections.

While hyperbaric therapy is an accepted treatment in many countries and is not just quite successful but is also cost effective, most provinces in Canada don’t cover it and claim its benefits haven’t been scientifically proven.

The Judy Dan Wound Care Centre is now becoming something of a clinical testing site, as 120 patients receive either hyperbaric oxygen therapy or a placebo treatment to prove the therapy’s value and the study is monitored by experts at the University of Toronto and McMaster University. The study is being partially funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Dr Wilf DeMajo, of the hyperbaric unit at Toronto General Hospital, commented, “The study was set-up because it is essential. The previous data is inadequate. This will be watched. This will be a landmark study, without a doubt.”

If the study is able to prove the therapy is effective and allay any nagging doubts, then the number of treatment centres across the country could be expected to expand.

Ron Linden, a family physician who has been practising hyperbaric work for 20 years and helped set-up the donation-funded Judy Dan Wound Care Centre, said, “We shouldn’t have to rely on charity to keep running. Once we show whether this is a better way, hopefully we will get funding.”