According to Rossignol, the outcomes of the study suggest that the treatment is effective in reducing problems with speech, behavior and eye contact. Headlines suggest that HBOT could be a major new breakthrough in the field of autism treatment - and ads for home HBOT systems (costing thousands of dollars) are everywhere.
Before rushing out and demanding HBOT from your doctor or buying your own HBOT system, be aware that this is ONE short term, unreplicated research study conducted by a person who has staked much of his reputation on the effectiveness of HBOT. Consider:
- Dr. Rossignol is "the" proponent of HBOT, and has been speaking at conferences all over the world in support of the treatment. Clearly, he has a personal and professional stake in seeing that the outcomes of a research study are positive.
- The present study was funded by the International Hyperbarics Association, a trade group of private hyperbaric therapy centers. Clearly, they have a similar stake in seeing positive outcomes.
- The present study lasted for only four weeks, while HBOT treatments usually last much longer. It's not clear whether there are consistent or long term gains at all.
- Granted that HBOT is surely safer than some alternative treatments, it is not without risk.
- It is unclear why and how HBOT would make a difference for children with autism. The theory is that the system reduces inflammation in the brain - but that theory is controversial and unproven.
- Home HBOT systems are not the same as hospital systems, and using such a system outside of a medical setting may be useless or even potentially dangerous.
- No insurance company will cover the very high cost of HBOT for autism, as it is considered an experimental and unproven therapy.