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Hyperbaric Oxygen or Pressurized Air for Children with Cerebral Palsy: No Difference

Three Part Question

Is [hyperbaric oxygen treatment HBO] effective in [improving gross motor function] for [children with cerebral palsy]?

Clinical Scenario

Parents of a 6 year old with cerebral palsy want to know if hyperbaric oxygen will be an effective treatment for their child's gross motor problems

Search Strategy

Medline 1966-06/2002, Cinahl 1982-present, Biosys 1969-present using the OVID interface
([exp hyperbaric AND [exp cerebral])

Search Outcome

Medline - 12 hits, Cinahl - 2, Biosys - 4. 12 unique references. 3 are irrelevant, 6 are letters, 1 is a case study and 1 is a pilot for the tabulated paper.

Relevant Paper(s)

Author, date and country Patient group Study type (level of evidence) Outcomes Key results Study Weaknesses
Collet JP et al
111 3-12 yr olds with cerebral palsy, randomly assigned to receive 40 treatments of HBO or slightly pressurised airRCTMain: gross motor function measured by Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM)No differenceActual sample size was slightly smaller (107) than calculated (126) to declare a true difference between groups with a GMFM score differential of 3%. However, this did not alter the findings. There was a difference in the dropout rate between groups (3 from HBO and 1 from pressurised air)
Secondary: activities of daily living, attention, working, memory, speechNo difference


One clinical trial identified, many anecdotal reports. Improvement in both groups may be related to parent motivation and the associated attention received by children.

Clinical Bottom Line

Currently, there is no evidence to show greater improvements in gross motor function for children with cerebral palsy receiving HBO than for children receiving a sham treatment of slightly pressurised air.


  1. Collet JP, Vanasse M, Marois P, Amar M, Goldberg J, Lambert J, Lassonde M, Hardy P, Fortin J, Tremblay SD, Montgomery D, Lacroix J, Robinson A, Majnemer A and the HBO-CP Research Group. Hyperbaric oxygen for children with cerebral palsy: a randomised multicentre trial. Lancet 2001;357(9256)Feb 24:582-6.
  2. Russell D, Rosenbaum P, Gowland C et al. Gross Motor Function Measure Manual. 2nd ed. 1993. McMaster University:Hamilton, Ontario.