Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a patient’s perspective

What is undergoing a longevity treatment really like? Bringing the patient’s voice to the longevity conversation.

Recently, we spoke to Shai Efrati MD, Chair of Aviv Clinics’ Medical Advisory Board and Founder and Director of the world-leading Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, about the longevity and healthspan benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). The Aviv Medical Program is designed for individuals experiencing cognitive and physical decline because of a variety of conditions, including stroke, post-COVID and age-related cognitive decline, Aviv also has an increasing number of clients who wish to improve their cognitive and physical performance and increase their healthspan.

One of Aviv’s patients is Patti Finnegan, a senior living in The Villages in Florida, and we sat down with her to find out what HBOT entails for the patient.

Longevity.Technology: At Longevity.Technology, we often cover therapies and treatments that have been developed or launched, discussing the science behind them and the possible results for the patient. What is less common, however, is to hear from the patients themselves – how did they find the experience and has it made a difference? What starts in a test tube or a white board ends up in a person, so it is important to retain a focus on the end user; after all, while patient population data is important, improving outcomes for actual people is the key goal behind longevity science – real people living longer, healthier lives.

One of Aviv’s patients is Patti Finnegan, a senior living in The Villages in Florida; Patti was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 25 years ago, but even before her diagnosis, she was suffering with debilitating symptoms that were just ascribed to stress or hormones.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a patient's perspective
Patti Finnegan

And when Patti was diagnosed, things didn’t improve; instead, she was put on various medications, which she describes as “band-aid solutions” – nothing was moving the needle on her condition.

Prompted by a neighbor, Patti and her husband attended one of Dr Efrati’s presentations; following that up with an appointment at Aviv to discuss healthy aging and what the program could do for the Finnegans’ healthspan, Patti was encouraged to discover the program can help with fibromyalgia.

“My fibromyalgia caused painful symptoms and brain fog,” Patti explains. “Additionally, I was dealing with other age-related ailments like fatigue, lack of stamina, memory, balance, coordination and other things that were roadblocks on my journey to live a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. I tried to keep up with yoga and be more active, but the pain in my joints and the brain fog were preventing me from living the life I wanted to live.”

Patti had heard of HBOT before, but in terms of treating wounds and athletic injuries, rather than healthy aging. “I was aware of the tube-like chambers that some people had in their homes, and I felt claustrophobic just thinking about it,” she says. However, she was relieved to discover the set-up is rather different at Aviv, and the HBOT sessions are called ‘dives’ rather than ‘treatments’.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a patient's perspective
Patti experiences a ‘dive’ at Aviv Clinics

“At first, fear of the unknown made me nervous about sitting in the HBOT chamber, but Aviv’s healthcare team walked me through each step and soon, I was looking forward to going to my daily dive session,” Patti explains.

“The multiplace chambers at Aviv are spacious and comfortable – everyone inside feels like they’re sitting first class in an airplane. The medical team at Aviv programs tablets with specific ‘brain games,’ cognitive training apps, that are selected for your unique needs that you can play while you’re in the chambers, and a professional is always on hand at all times.”

Patti met a wide variety of people during the program, including those who were there to treat conditions like aging, PTSD, TBI, stroke, long COVID and more. That Aviv’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy can improve outcomes for a wide variety of conditions is due, in part to a specific HBOT protocol.

During HBOT, 100% oxygen is inhaled while in an environment pressurized above 1.3 atmospheres absolute; the increased atmospheric pressure results in the amount of oxygen that reaches the body’s tissues and organs increasing 10-15-fold compared with breathing in a normal environment.

In addition, Aviv’s specific protocol involves fluctuating the oxygen levels in the hyperbaric suite to spark the hyperoxic-hypoxic paradox, a situation where repeated intermittent hyperoxia can induce many of the benefits of hypoxia without its hazardous effects. The benefits include stem cell proliferation, increased vascular endothelial growth factor production, increased production of the neuroprotective protein SIRT1 and increased mitochondrial biogenesis. The hyperoxic-hypoxic paradox also upregulates HIF-1, a gene that triggers regeneration processes, is neuroprotective and plays an important role in the regeneration and maintenance of highly oxygen-dependent organs such as the brain and the heart [1].

With Aviv’s HBOT sessions taking approximately two hours per day, five days a week, for a duration of 8-12 weeks, how did it work in practice for Patti and her husband? It all came down to routine, as she explains: “We started our day with a 7 am dive, and it set the tone for my day. I felt energized and ready to conquer whatever lay ahead. I viewed the Aviv program as my part time job, and the job was working on a better, healthier me.

In addition, Patti says she felt like the clinic treated her, rather than just her symptoms.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – a patient's perspective
Patients use brain training apps during dives to improve cognition

“Through all the years of seeing specialists, my doctors never got to know me – they focused on one problem, one symptom, at a time,” she explains. “At Aviv, I didn’t just see the physicians. I met with the psychologist for my anxiety, the physical therapist for my hips and legs and the nutritionist for my diet. They all work together as a team to treat the whole person, and it makes a difference to consider all the things happening in the body at once.”

This whole person longevity approach is one Patti is maintaining. “I had a complete shift in mindset,” she says. “I didn’t grow up in a health-conscious home, but now, I thoroughly enjoy my yoga, Zumba and barre classes, and I try to keep maintaining the best dietary habits.”

Since completing the Aviv’s HBOT program, Patti says she feels like her entire body is different.

“I’m more energetic, I’m in better shape, my brain is sharper, I am able to exercise without debilitating aches, I have more stamina and my coordination, balance and posture are all significantly improved,” she explains. “I’m also more emotionally and mentally healthy. I don’t struggle with anxiety and depression like I used to.”

Now a firm advocate for HBOT, Patti says she recommends HBOT to “anyone and everyone who will listen”.

“I tell people how it’s a comprehensive health experience and how fortunate I feel for the changes to my health. I believe investing in your health is more than worth it, and I am glad I invested in mine!”

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7355982/

Photographs courtesy of Aviv Clinics