Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center
The Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center is equipped with two state-of-the-art hyperbaric chambers used to treat a variety of conditions medically shown to respond positively to hyperbaric oxygen exposure.
Established in 1995 through the generosity of Norman Knight, a retired Boston businessman and noted philanthropist, the Center was Massachusetts’ first hyperbaric treatment facility. Today, it is the longest running in the region and the only one of its kind available for emergencies 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Our location on the 11th floor of Mass Eye and Ear, a full-service hospital located directly next door to Massachusetts General Hospital, offers patients under treatment access to other care they may need. Our physicians are board-certified and faculty members of Harvard Medical School. Patients with conditions often treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, such as those in need of wound care for diabetes, may benefit from our close proximity to such a broad range of care.
Hyperbaric therapy is often associated with treating people rescued from burning buildings for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. It was Mr. Knight’s continued dedication to the Fire-Rescue and EMS communities that initially inspired him to make hyperbaric medicine a reality at Mass Eye and Ear.
For Our Patients
Our physicians have been trained to examine commercial, sport, scientific, and other related public service divers, and determine their fitness to dive.
Hyperbaric therapy is delivered in an airtight, pressure-controlled container large enough to accommodate an adult lying down. Patients may watch TV, listen to music or even sleep while lying comfortably in the chamber. Side effects are limited, with the most commonly reported including light-headedness or popping in the ears.
The term “hyperbaric” means “high pressure.” Exposing patients to a 100 percent oxygen under pressure for an extended period has been proven to be effective in treating a variety of problems, including but not limited to:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Smoke inhalation
- Gas embolism
- Scuba diving injuries and “the bends”
- Chronic non-healing wounds related to diabetes, radiation therapy or poor blood flow
- Life-threatening infection
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be recommended as the primary treatment, or as part of a combination of treatment strategies.
Oxygen in the chamber is compressed to the level ordered by the consulting physician. The time spent inside the chamber and the total number of treatments varies according to the condition being treated, severity and response.
The air we breathe contains 21 percent oxygen. During hyperbaric therapy, the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen at greater than normal atmospheric pressure.
- Hyperbaric therapy works by increasing oxygen carried in the blood stream – not by the oxygen having direct contact with the skin or wounds. Hyperbaric therapy has been proven to:
- Promote blood vessel formation
- Enhance wound healing
- Improve infection control
- Preserve damaged tissues
- Eliminate and reduce effects from toxic substances
- Reduce or eliminate tissue and blood flow obstruction by gas bubbles
For a patient with a problem wound, increasing blood oxygen levels promotes healing. For a victim of smoke inhalation, the extra oxygen can rapidly reverse the toxic effects of poisonous carbon monoxide.
The Norman Knight Hyperbaric Center adheres to the guidelines provided by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS), the governing body for hyperbaric medicine, when recommending treatment for patients.
These conditions include:
- Air or Gas Embolism
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Clostridial Myositis and Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene)
- Crush Injury, Compartment Syndrome and Other Acute Traumatic Ischemias
- Decompression Sickness
- Arterial Insufficiencies
- Severe Anemia
- Intracranial Abscess
- Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
- Osteomyelitis (Refractory)
- Delayed Radiation Injury (Soft Tissue and Bony Necrosis)
- Compromised Grafts and Flaps
- Acute Thermal Burn Injury
Please read below for explanations for the more common treatment indications
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause long-term health problems, which may include headaches, dizziness, nausea and neurologic problems. Carbon monoxide is directly toxic to the brain and other organs. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also extremely beneficial in the treatment of smoke inhalation and cyanide poisoning. The oxygen therapy reverses the toxic effects of such chemicals by assisting oxygenation when the lungs are damaged. Specific indicators are used by the HBO physician to determine when HBO therapy is needed.
Gas Embolism Treatment
Gas embolism occurs when air enters the blood vessels. An embolism is commonly found in divers or occasionally associated with complications arising from a medical procedure. Depending on the location of the air bubble, the effects can be fatal.
This uncommon wound infection is progressive and possibly fatal. Caused by bacteria, gas gangrene or Clostridial Myonecrosis produces bacterial toxins into tissues during an infection. This toxin is harmful to the tissue. HBO stops toxin production and reduces bacterial growth.
Decompression Sickness Treatment
This sickness is usually found in divers and is also known as “the bends.” When a diver reaches the surface, nitrogen bubbles may accumulate in the diver's tissues causing joint pain, paralysis and even death.
Most patients are capable of normal wound healing. Certain diseases such as diabetes, blood vessel narrowing or radiation tissue injury, can be affected by HBO, which facilitates wound healing by increasing the small blood vessels, enhancing the wound healing mechanism and facilitating high tissue levels of oxygen.
While the treatment team at the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center does adhere to the UHMS Guidelines for therapy, we are motivated to collaborate with clinicians in other specialties to explore the benefits in other settings.
Please reach out to us if you are a treating physician who is interested in exploring hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a patient cohort.
Meet Our Team
Recognized by the American Medical Association and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, physicians and nurses of the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Mass. Eye and Ear are among the most experienced hyperbaric medicine specialists in the region.