Miracle Hyperbaric Treatment Claims Prey On Those Desperate For A Cure

If someone's been badly burned or suffers the bends while scuba diving, hyperbaric therapy is often the best course of treatment. However, around the country, hyperbaric chambers are being touted as practically a medical miracle with some centers claim

In a state-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chamber a patient is locked inside. The pressure increases and a super-charged burst of oxygen flows into his bloodstream.

The treatment is approved by the FDA for only 13 specific conditions like deep-sea divers suffering from the bends and killing off flesh-eating bacteria.  

For those approved conditions, a hyperbaric chamber can be a Godsend. But now, clinics are popping up around the country claiming they can treat all types of conditions.  Some experts say that's nothing more than a money making scam.

Watch the entire investigation here.

The INSIDE EDITION I-Squad took their hidden cameras into some hyperbaric clinics, and heard shocking claims of major breakthroughs in the treatment of everything from Alzheimer’s disease to autism.

At a Minneapolis clinic, Guerrero posed as the anxious parent of a child with autism searching for help.  The therapist said the child would need at least forty, one-hour sessions.  The cost? A whopping $5,000!  And he told her Autism wasn't the only disorder he successfully treats, saying, "It's very strong for cerebral palsy."

Cerebral palsy?  Autism?  Really?  When Guerrero went back to talk to him, he told her that the proof is on the internet.

“Are you just scamming people for money sir?” she asked.  “Are you just taking advantage of desperate people who are trying to find a miracle? Is this just junk science?”

He then got in his car and drove away.

Our next stop was a hyperbaric clinic sixteen hundred miles away in Phoenix, Arizona.

The manager there said her chamber can treat all sorts of conditions, “M.S., chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s, AIDS. I mean, I treat everything.”

Then, we took a tour of her chamber. Believe it or not, it sits in a trailer in the parking lot.

How do children with autism react to hours in the noisy chamber?

Guerrero asked, “Do any of them ever freak out and not every want to come back?”

“No” she said.  “They freak out and hate it but then mom says you have to come back the next day and they hate it again.”

Alison Singer is head of the Autism Science Foundation. “I think they are preying on the desperation and grief of families who are trying to do anything they can to help their kids with autism. I think they're charlatans. They do it because they see it as a way to make money.”

We went back to that manager again with our cameras rolling.

“This kind of therapy is not going to help children with autism, People with AIDS, women with breast cancer,” Guerrero asked.  “How do you explain that?”

“Their doctors send them here to us and you know, they get well,” the manager responded,

Guerrero asked, “So, you stand by the claims you made inside?”

“I do,” said the manager.

Hyperbaric chambers have become so popular as a new-age cure-all. There are even build-you-own videos posted online. But beware - experts warn that homemade contraptions like these could be dangerous. And taking these treatments in search of a miracle could be nothing more than a waste of money.

“There is no evidence behind these treatments,” says Alison Singer. “And so to put the child through that, knowing that there's no potential benefit I think is just horrifying."

For more information on FDA-approved hyperbaric oxygen therapy, go to the FDA website and Hyperbaric Medical Solutions.