Could this accident have been prevented? Some accounts pointed out that the horse should have been outfitted with aluminum shoes, which would not have caused a spark. Two workers did not reach an emergency shut-off valve in time. But what was the real cause?
For many years, people who have hyperbaric chambers have been looking for things to do with them. There is no doubt that hyperbaric oxygen is a very effective treatment for decompression sickness in scuba divers. Other than that, there is no proof in humans or animals that hyperbaric oxygen is effective in any medical illness. Two recent Cochrane reviews have found no evidence to support its use in the most commonly cited medical conditions for which it is always proposed, carbon monoxide poisoning and wounds. Both reviews call for randomized controlled trials.
A thorough search for evidence that hyperbaric oxygen works in equine neurologic diseases or wounds revealed only anecdotes. Websites devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of EPM do not mention the use of hyperbaric oxygen. There are many animal hyperbaric chambers in the United States.
I realize that all treatments need not be evidence-based. I don’t need a randomized controlled trial to prove to me that aspirin cures headaches.
But for a woman and a horse to die during a dangerous and completely speculative treatment is a truly preventable tragedy.