SPECT Scans and Autism Spectrum Disorder

If the holy grail of HBOT therapies is to promote new neural connections, then the gold standard of objective evidence could be this technology. Single photon emission computed tomography creates images of the brain which combine multiple 2-D views left by a special chemical (which is injected into a patient’s arm). Multiple pictures are taken from multiple angles and a computer reconstructs the image into the 3D views. Images provide detail down to 1/2 inch – not as good a s some technologies but a lot less expensive (~$1,000 plus*).

By combining this smart camera with the right type of tracer chemical, the radiologist can interpret brain blood flow. As noted in the previous post, such information represents the most tangible evidence that a patient has/could/would/may/should improve on continued HBOT therapy.

In the best of all worlds, a SPECT scan would be performed before starting HBOT, then after twenty sessions or so. Even in the absence of clinical improvement, that knowledge may make a parent want to continue 40, 60, or more treatments..

Conversely, lack of change in blood flow may influence the decision about continuation of HBOT. Any symptomatic improvements could have been due to improved G-I health or sensory conditioning, rather than an HBOT – Brain specific relationship.

To choose such a protocol would involve twice the anesthesia, more exposure to radiation (however small), increased financial burden, extra time and lots of stress. However, SPECT scanning is a very interesting technology that may help a family better understand their child’s condition and reaction to the controversial and resource-intensive treatment of HBOT.

The lingering question remains, “Does increased oxygen delivery indicate, or lead to, or in some way promote (and in no way worsen) infantile autism?” This technology may be the best information that we have for now, concerning the usefulness of this expensive and time-consuming technology of HBOT.

*The costs will go up depending on the chemical that is injected, whether/type of anesthesia, interpretation by a trained radiologist and any other additions that they can think of.

One more post to go! (about this topic, for now)

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