Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment in which the patient intermittently breathes 100% oxygen while inside a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to greater than sea level pressure (1 atmosphere absolute, or ATA). A hyperbaric chamber is made from high quality transparent acrylic which allows for the delivery of oxygen to the body in higher concentrations than normal.
This type of therapy is considered a supplementary therapy and is used in combination with another medical treatment. It is carried out under the close supervision of a physician specializing in hyperbaric medicine and is a non-invasive, painless treatment.
Indications for HBOT Treatment
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been approved by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) for use in the treatment of the following diseases or indications:
- Air or Gas Embolism
- Arterial Insufficiencies: A) Central Retinal Artery Occlusion B) Enhancement of Healing in Selected Problem Wounds
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Complicated by Cyanide Poisoning
- Clostridial Myositis and Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene)
- Compromised Grafts and Flaps
- Crush Injury, Compartment Syndrome and Other Acute Traumatic Ischemias
- Decompression Sickness
- Delayed Radiation Injury (Soft Tissue and Bony Necrosis)
- Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Intracranial Abscess
- Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
- Osteomyelitis (Refractory)
- Severe Anemia
- Acute Thermal Burn Injury
Benefits of HBOT
There are several benefits to undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, including:
- Promotes and stimulates tissue and capillary growth; when the body develops new capillaries, oxygen therapy helps to improve blood flow to organs that lack sufficient oxygen and blood, thus helping wounds to heal more quickly.
- Improves the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria
- Helps to prevent and fight certain types of infections
- Helps to reduce tissue swelling
- Can reduce the size of bubbles in tissues and blood vessels, for example, in cases of air or gas embolism
Before providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the doctor will thoroughly examine the patient's physical condition in order to ensure the patient's safety and prevent any possible complications. Once the doctor determines that the patient can safely proceed, the session will be carried out as follows:
- Clothing will be provided for the patient to change into.
- The patient will lie on a stretcher that slides into the hyperbaric chamber.
- A physician or nursing professional will release 100% pure oxygen, filling the chamber, and will gradually increase the oxygen pressure to greater than normal. The patient may experience some mild ear popping or ringing at the start. The attending physician or nurse will monitor the patient continuously and will be able to communicate with the patient at any time during the procedure via a speaker attached to the chamber.
- The patient will be able to adjust their posture or position so that they are comfortable and relaxed throughout the procedure. They may choose to watch television or simply to sleep and rest while the procedure is taking place.
- The therapy session will last about 60-90 minutes. The number of HBOT treatments the patient will need depends on the purpose of the treatment and how well the patient responds to the therapy.
- Once the session is complete, the physician or nurse will slowly depressurize the chamber to normal atmospheric pressure, and will then help the patient out of the chamber.
- For outpatient cases, the patient can then change back into their clothes and return home without the need for an overnight stay in the hospital.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy does carry some risk of complications, but these are generally mild and are very rare. Complications include ear popping, ear pain, sinus pain, and oxygen toxicity.
Nonetheless, careful and accurate diagnosis, a focus on safety at all stages of the treatment, and the expertise of the doctors and nurses attending the patient throughout the procedure will both reduce the possibility of any complications and increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
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