The aim of our study was to evaluate whether hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO) was an effective therapy for neonatal hypoxic ischemic brain damage (HIBD). Seven-day-old rat pups were divided into 3 groups: sham, hypoxia-ischemia (HI) control and HI-HBO group. HBO was administered for HI rats daily. The pathologic changes in brain tissues were observed by hematoxylin-eosin (H-E) staining. The immunohistochemical staining was applied to detect the Nestin and 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) positive cells in hippocampal dentate gyrus region. The learning and memory function of rats was examined by Morris water maze. The HI rats showed obvious pathologic changes accompanied by levels decreasing and disorder arrangement of pyramidal cells, glial cells proliferation in postoperative, and nerve nuclei broken, while pathologic changes of rats in sham group was approximate to that in the HI + HBO group that was opposite to the HI group. Compared with the sham group, the Nestin and BrdU positive cells in HBO + HI group at different time points increased significantly (P < 0.01). Learning and memory function of rats in HI group was poor compared with the sham/HI + HBO group (P < 0.01), while that in HI + HBO group was approximate to that in sham group (P > 0.05). HBO treatment improved the learning and memory ability of the HI rats. HBO therapy may be effective for neonatal HIBD treatment.

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