What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

By: John Hinson | On: July 31, 2015

Extreme illness or injury may require intensive care that cannot be replicated at home. One such example is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This procedure is only done in situations where it is absolutely necessary, especially when there is an insufficient supply of oxygen to stimulate a healing environment. The procedure requires specialized equipment. But exactly what is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and How does it Work?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a specialized healing procedure which uses a highly pressurized chamber and 100% oxygen to treat a variety of wounds, infections, and illnesses.

Some Wounds and Illnesses Which Benefit from HBOT Include:

  • Gangrene and other necrotizing soft tissue infections
  • Traumatic and/or crush wounds
  • Burns
  • Skin grafts or flaps
  • Radiation-induced wounds that won’t heal under normal circumstances
  • Decompression sickness from diving
  • Diabetes-related wounds – which reduces the risk of need for amputation

The patient breathes 100% oxygen while resting in a pressurized treatment chamber. The pressure inside the chamber is gradually increased so that it is three times higher than the natural atmosphere.

HBOT works due to two principles: hyper oxygenation and the decrease in bubble size. The patient is administered 100% pure oxygen. When the “bubble”, or atmosphere pressure, is increased, the patient’s lungs are able to gather more oxygen than normal. Wounds and illnesses need oxygen to heal. Since the patient is breathing pure oxygen, the effect is dramatically amplified.

The blood carries oxygen throughout the body, and the oxygen that the blood cells are carrying is pure, so the immune system has a strong base with which to fight off infection. The pure oxygen stimulates and promotes healing.

What to Expect During a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Session

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - Florida Medical ClinicSome hospitals have chambers which house multiple patients. In this setting, each patient has their own hood which delivers pure oxygen, and all of them are in the same atmospheric pressure. Most hospitals have individual chambers, called a ‘monoplace’, which is utilized for individuals.

During the average session, the patient can expect the following:

  • The patient will be asked to wear a 100% cotton medical gown
  • The patient will lie on a table which then slides into the monoplace.
  • The monoplace will be sealed, and the procedure will begin. The pressure will rise, and pure oxygen vented into the chamber.
  • The patient will be asked to relax for the duration of the procedure, which can last between 30 minutes to two hours. They have access to TV and music during this time. They will also have access to their HBOT therapist for any questions or concerns.
  • When the procedure is over, the therapist slowly depressurizes the chamber. The patient may feel tired or lightheaded. This is completely normal, and the symptoms will subside given time.

Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Wound Therapy Work?

In a word, yes. HBOT has proven to be effective in providing sufficient oxygen supply to stimulate healing where traditional methods are not successful.

All tissues and organs need oxygen to stay healthy. They need extra oxygen to repair, especially when seriously damaged or diseased. By temporarily increasing the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, normalized levels of blood gases promote healing to areas which may not be easily accessed. Additionally, the increase of oxygen in the blood stream allows the body to more readily fight infection.

Risks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

While improved wound healing is an excellent incentive to use Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in cases of serious need, there are some risks which occur rarely.

Some of These Risks Include:

  • Nearsightedness from the artificial atmospheric pressure
  • Non-life-threatening convulsions related to exposure to pure oxygen
  • Decompression sickness
  • Patients with congestive heart failure may experience additional issues with heart function following HBOT.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a generally safe and non-invasive procedure which has been used effectively for over a century. Consult with your physician to determine if HBOT is right for you.

Florida Medical Clinic Wound Care Center

Our physicians have over 40 years’ combined experience in treating non-healing and chronic wounds. We work with each individual patient to effectively treat wounds caused by burns, surgery, trauma, disease, and illness. We offer many options in addition to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. The Florida Medical Clinic Wound Care Center provides the most advanced diagnosis and treatment options available for chronic and non-healing wounds.