Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (sometimes abbreviated HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. It was originally used in the treatment of underwater divers with decompression sickness; however, its use has expanded over time. Today, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment a range of other medical and surgical conditions, including certain kinds of infections, wounds that do not heal normally, and injuries associated with radiation therapy, among others.
Your body’s tissues require a regular supply of oxygen to function effectively. When tissues are damaged through accident or illness, that supply can be impaired. The goal for HBOT is to increase the amount of oxygen temporarily carried in the blood in order to repair tissues and restore normal function.
In an HBOT session, you are exposed to an increased atmospheric pressure, between 1.5 and 3 times normal, in the hyperbaric chamber. Under these conditions, your lungs take in more oxygen than breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. Blood becomes highly oxygenated and circulates through the bloodstream to restore normal oxygen levels, promote healing, reduce inflammation and improve blood flow in damaged areas. Research shows HBOT can also aid in the development of new blood vessels in parts of the body.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been approved for use with more than a dozen medical conditions, including:
- Acute anemias
- Intracranial abscess
- Bubbles of air in your blood vessels (arterial gas embolism)
- Decompression sickness
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Compartment syndrome
- Crushing injury
- Sudden idiopathic deafness
- Gas gangrene
- Infection of skin or bone that can result in tissue death
- Necrotizing soft tissue infection (also called flesh-eating disease)
- Wounds (diabetic and nondiabetic) that do not heal properly
- Radiation injury
- Compromised skin graft or flap at risk of tissue death
- Vision loss, sudden and painless
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be performed as an outpatient procedure and doesn’t require hospitalization. However, if you’re already hospitalized and require hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you’ll remain in the hospital for therapy. A hyperbaric oxygen therapy session usually lasts approximately two hours, both to maximize the benefit to your body and because your doctor will want to increase pressure slowly as your session begins and decrease it slowly as your treatment draws to an end.
During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, because the air pressure in the chamber is about two to three times normal air pressure, you may experience a feeling of pressure in your ears, like what you might feel in an airplane. In most cases, you can relieve that sensation by yawning or swallowing.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy generally involves several sessions. It is often used as part of a broad, comprehensive treatment plan to address your medical condition. This will be determined in consultation with your physicians based on your medical need.
At Hospital CIMA, we use a single person hyberbaric oxygen therapy unit. It allows you to listen to music, watch television or rest as your treatment progresses under the supervision of specialized personnel.
To learn more, contact us at Hospital CIMA and arrange a consultation with a physician expert in this treatment.