In what is believed to be a world first, a team of US doctors are reporting a case of reversal of brain damage in a two-year-old child who experienced cardiac arrest after cold water drowning.
In February 2016, the child wandered into the family swimming pool and was submerged in 5°C water for up to 15 minutes. Four days after the incident, MRI showed deep grey matter injury. Cerebral atrophy and grey and white matter loss were observed on day 32. She was discharged home on day 35, unresponsive to all stimuli, immobile with legs drawn to her chest, and with constant squirming and head shaking.
From day 56, normobaric oxygen was administered twice daily. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) was introduced on day 79. Presenting the case in the journal Medical Gas Research, the authors say neurological improvements were observed on initiating each therapy. After HBOT, the patient demonstrated normal speech and cognition, assisted gait, with residual fine motor and temperament deficits. MRI 27 days after HBOT showed near-normalisation of ventricles and reversal of atrophy.
The authors attribute the “startling regrowth of tissue” to the fact that they were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration.