Hyperbaric chamber helps man regain vision

A blood clot blocked the central artery in the retina of a 54-year-old man.A man who was blind in one eye regained his sight after unusual treatment recently in the hyperbaric chamber operated by Rambam Hospital’s ophthalmology department. The man, …

A blood clot blocked the central artery in the retina of a 54-year-old man.A man who was blind in one eye regained his sight after unusual treatment recently in the hyperbaric chamber operated by Rambam Hospital’s ophthalmology department.

The man, 54, who immigrated from Russia a decade ago, was unable to see with his left eye due to a blood clot that blocked the central artery of the retina.

Binyamin Miller, head of the department in the Haifa, Israel, hospital, said such a blockage prevents the supply of blood to the retina and in most cases causes blindness.

“Tests on monkeys a few years ago showed that if the retina is deprived of oxygen for 100 minutes, the blindness is irreversible,” he said.

The usual treatment is to lower the pressure inside the eye and expand the blood vessels immediately. In some of these cases, sight returns partially. Rambam ophthalmologists are among the first in the world to start treating the problem by putting the patient into a hyperbaric chamber with high-pressure oxygen.

The chamber is also used to treat divers suffering from “the bends” and victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.

So far, 40 people with this problem have been treated by Rambam doctors using high-pressure oxygen, and most enjoyed improved, but not perfect, sight.

“This last case was unusual, as the patient suffered from complete blindness in one eye and regained his sight fully after treatment in the chamber,” Miller said.