Episode 048 — Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with Dr. Michael Bennett

'They compared giving hyperbaric to a group of patients to another group of patients the could not help and sent home.' -- Dr. Michael Bennett #stroke #hyperbaric Click To Tweet


Stroke recovery is a marathon; it’s not a sprint. Regaining cognitive skills, physical skills, sensory skills, and more takes time and work. During that time, life can be really hard and unpleasant for many folks. The may or may not be able to work. Relationships get turned upside down, and after a while you just want it to go away. Surely, with all the advances in medicine, there must be something…some fancy technology or machine…some magic technique that will fix these problems, right?

That leads folks to look for and explore alternatives. It also means that many survivors start pursuing things that don’t work. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy appears to be one of those therapies. In Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, the patient spends time in a pressure chamber where the air pressure is 2-3X normal and breathes pure oxygen. They get roughly 8-12X as much oxygen as in their normal lives. This, supposedly, should grow new blood vessels in the brain and revive the dead neurons that were killed by the stroke, or drive new growth through neuroplasticity.

I saw a number of people asking about it in Facebook groups and twitter feeds, so I began talking with folks to learn more. Strokecast regular, neurologist Dr Nirav Shah, introduced me to one of the world’s leading authorities on Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Dr. Mike Bennett in Australia.

This week I talk with Dr. Bennett about the theory and the research around hyperbaric medicine. We answer the key questions about it — is it safe, and does it work.

The short version is that it is mostly safe, but there is no reliable research demonstrating that it works. The main risk is to the patient’s wallet.

'There's no proven benefit to (hyperbaric therapy) unless it is 100% oxygen at about (2-3Atmosphers).' -- Dr. Michael Bennett #hyperbaric Click To Tweet


Dr. Mike Bennett headshotProfessor Bennett is the Academic Head of the Department of Anaesthesia, a Senior Staff Specialist in diving and hyperbaric medicine at Prince of Wales Hospital and Conjoint Professor in the faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He graduated from the University of New South Wales in 1979 and spent his early post-graduate training at the Prince Henry/Prince of Wales Hospitals before undertaking training in Anaesthesia in the UK.

He returned to Sydney in 1990 as a retrieval specialist on the Lifesaver Helicopter and here developed an interest in both diving and hyperbaric medicine. He also has a strong interest in clinical epidemiology and is an experienced clinician and researcher. In 2002 he was the recipient of the Behnke Award for outstanding scientific achievement from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society.

''I speak fully aware that I'm using the best interpretation I can of poor data, and I suspect there's no effect of hyperbaric in this situation, but I'm not ruling it out.' -- Dr. Michael Bennett #stroke #hyperbaric Click To Tweet

Since 2004 he has been highly involved in the teaching of Evidence-based Medicine within the Medical faculty at UNSW and in 2005 was appointed co-director of the Quality Medical Practice Program there. He is the author of over 150 peer-reviewed publications including 15 Cochrane reviews of the evidence in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine.

Prof. Bennett was the convenor of the Australia and New Zealand Hyperbaric Medicine Group Introductory Course in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine from its inception in 2014. He is an executive member of the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) special interest group in diving and hyperbaric medicine, chief examiner for the ANZCA Certificate in diving and hyperbaric medicine and Chair of the ANZCA Scholar Role Subcommittee. He is a past Vice-President of the UHMS and currently the Past President of SPUMS.

'Most of the research is before the advent of the physical removal of clots.' -- Dr. Michael Bennett #hyperbaric #stroke Click To Tweet

Hack of the Week — Rocker Knife

One handed steak knifeLast week, I talked about cutting meat at a restaurant — don’t. This week, let’s talk about doing the same thing at home where you may not have a kitchen staff. Sure, at home you can just pick up a hunk of meat with your hands. But sometimes you still want to slice it for some reason.

I use a Verti-Grip knife. It’s designed for folks with use of one hand. I hold it in my fist, rock it against the meat, and it cuts right through. It doesn’t require you to brace what you’re cutting with a fork. For a $14 gadget, it works really well.


'I think that in the best trials that have been done in chronic stroke patients, we are measuring a placebo effect.' -- Dr. Michael Bennett #stroke #hyperbaric Click To Tweet

Pure Mind Magic

A few months back, German podcaster, magician, and mindset expert Victoria Mavis joined me to talk about the intersection between public speaking and magic on my other podcast, 2-Minute Talk Tips. You can find that interview at

During December, I had the pleasure of appearing on her show, Pure Mind Magic. We talked about speaking, sure, but much of the conversation was about my stroke story and the power of mindset in recovery. You can listen to it here or subscribe for free to Pure Mind Magic in your favorite podcast app


Where do we go from here?

'I wish it did work. I really do.' -- Dr, Michael Bennett #hyperbaric #stroke Click To Tweet

Strokecast is the stroke podcast where a Gen X stroke survivor explores rehab, recovery, the frontiers of neuroscience and one-handed banana peeling by helping stroke survivors, caregivers, medical providers and stroke industry affiliates connect and share their stories.

1 thought on “Episode 048 — Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with Dr. Michael Bennett

  1. I have Cerebral Palsy which is similar to a stroke in that it is a lack of oxygen to the brain so I often have random strangers telling me to try this Oxygen therapy and after some research I found it is useless in my case because I have had brain damage for 20+ years but the thought of using it during an ischemic stroke as brain cells are dying but not dead is certainly interesting. The next time I randomly have someone suggest oxygen therapy to me I’ll send them this.

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