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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 13:57 GMT
Radiation overdose girl improving
Lisa Norris received an overdose of radiation on several occasions

The doctor caring for a teenager who was given a massive overdose of radiation said she was improving after receiving specialist oxygen treatment.

Lisa Norris, 15, was given 17 overdoses of radiation therapy at the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow during treatment for a brain tumour.

The Ayrshire teenager is now being treated in a hyperbaric chamber at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

Prof Philip James said Lisa was already showing signs of healing.

As a result of the overdose, she suffered burns on the back of her neck and head, making her unable to lie on her back to sleep.

Prof James said that after four days of treatment Lisa could now lie on her back again.

This is essentially a simple treatment
Prof Philip James
Wolfson Hyperbaric Unit

"She's feeling much better within herself," he said.

Lisa, who lives in Girvan, was warned by medics that exposure to the radiation could cause long-term brain damage, leading to paralysis and even premature death.

Prof James, medical director at Ninewells' Wolfson Hyperbaric Unit, offered to help after hearing about the case.

He said damage to skin and blood cells was a reasonably common side effect of radiation treatment.

Once blood vessels are damaged, it becomes harder for oxygen to be transported around the body. As a consequence, healing slows down at damaged areas.

Ninewells Hospital
Lisa is being treated in a specialist unit at Ninewells Hospital

Lisa receives her treatment at the hospital in a pressurised chamber and will have daily treatments for 14 days.

"This is essentially a simple treatment," Prof James said.

"Although the radiation burns do eventually settle down, it's often over a protracted time and can be very distressing for the patient.

"This way we very simply increase the oxygen available and get a much faster recovery rate."

No guarantees

Prof James said the treatment may also prevent the possibility of future brain damage, which could be caused by blood slowly leaking from blood vessels into nervous tissue.

He said hyperbaric treatment had already been shown to reverse some deteriorating eye conditions.

He said: "My reasoning is that simply if you can reverse something that is already deteriorating, then hopefully you can prevent that deterioration altogether.

"But this cannot be guaranteed for any given patient. It is a best case scenario."

Prof James has called on Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr to make more funds available for the service to be extended to other parts of the country.

See how Lisa Norris has improved

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08 Feb 06 |  Scotland

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