Are hyperbaric dives a possibility for relieving post-stroke issues?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 12, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband had a brain stem stroke 4.5 years ago. He was left with continuous dizziness, optic nerve rocking in both eyes, poor balance, no feeling in one arm and cold, electrical shocks in the other.  He is diabetic; does not sleep well; and, has been deteriorating over the past six months. MRIs show his brain is atropying. He sleeps all day and stays up late trying to watch TV. He is taking antidepressants but they do not seem to help. His doctor says that he will deteriorate with age. He is now 62 years old. Is there any treatment available to help? What about hyperbaric dives? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I work to support us and pay his prescription and medical bills. It is very frustrating and I feel very guilty forfeeling that my life has ended as well. Thank you for your assistance.

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Sorry to hear about your situation.

To start with, I have never heard of any proven benefit from hyperbaric dives for stroke treatment.  As far as I am aware, they are only used - with limited evidence - for people who have radiation induced vascular disease.  From your description, your husband does not have this.  One alternative type of treatment you might consider is seeing an alternative medicine therapist or accupuncturist.  Some of my patients have had success with this.

With regards to his electrical shock feelings, I have found that these can often be well controlled by the use of older-generation anti-depressants or with anti-seizure medications.  Please ask your doctor if these would be appropriate in his case.

To help with your overall care situation, I would also recommend the following: 1) Consider talking with a social worker about getting help around the house, or even moving you and your husband into an assisted living facility.  That may be covered by insurance and may make both your lives more manageable.  2) Consider having him seen by a Psychiatrist.  It sounds like he has depression and is not living his life to the fullest - up at night watching TV is not a good way to recover from a stroke.  A Psychiatrist may help with his depressive medicines to tailor them appropriately.  3) Consider having a conversation with his doctor about how to very strictly control his stroke risk factors - blood thinners, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension - and how to do it more cheaply.  Often, people don't realize that there are less expensive medicines that are equally effective for the treatment of their diseases.

Good luck!