About Hyperbaric Therapy
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 Healing Power of Oxygen
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.
Medical Conditions Shown to Respond Positively to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
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.