Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Reduction of Secondary Brain Damage in Head Injury: An Animal Model of Brain Contusion

Eilam Palzur, Eugene Vlodavsky, Hani Mulla, Ran Arieli, Moshe Feinsod, Jean F. Soustiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Cerebral contusions are one the most frequent traumatic lesions and the most common indication for secondary surgical decompression. The purpose of this study was to investigate the physiology of perilesional secondary brain damage and evaluate the value of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in the treatment of these lesions. Five groups of five Sprague-Dawley rats each were submitted to dynamic cortical deformation (DCD) induced by negative pressure applied to the cortex. Cerebral lesions produced by DCD at the vacuum site proved to be reproducible. The study protocol entailed the following: (1) DCD alone, (2) DCD and HBOT, (3) DCD and post-operative hypoxia and HBOT, (4) DCD, post-operative hypoxia and HBOT, and (5) DCD and normobaric hyperoxia. Animals were sacrificed after 4 days. Histological sections showed localized gross tissue loss in the cortex at injury site, along with hemorrhage. In all cases, the severity of secondary brain damage was assessed by counting the number of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) and caspase 3-positive cells in successive perilesional layers, each 0.5 mm thick. Perilesional TUNEL positive cells suggested the involvement of apoptosis in group 1 (12.24% of positive cells in layer 1). These findings were significantly enhanced by post-operative hypoxia (31.75%, p < 0.001). HBOT significantly reduced the severity and extent of secondary brain damage expressed by the number of TUNEL positive cells in each layer and the volume of the lesion (4.7% and 9% of TUNEL positive cells in layer 1 in groups 2 and 4 respectively, p < 0.0001 and p < 0.003). Normobaric hyperoxia also proved to be beneficial although in a lesser extent. This study demonstrates that the vacuum model of brain injury is a reproducible model of cerebral contusion. The current findings also suggest that HBOT may limit the growth of cerebral contusions and justify further experimental studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Cerebral contusion
  • Head injury
  • Hyperbaric oxygen
  • Secondary brain damage


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