1 What is a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

A well-established treatment for decompression sickness which is a hazard of scuba diving is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy that involves breathing pyre oxygen in a pressurized room.

Some of the conditions that are also treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy are bubbles of air in your blood vessels, serious infections, radiation injury or wounds that would not heal as a result of diabetes.

The air pressure is increased to three times higher than the normal air pressure in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber so your lungs can gather more oxygen than breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.

The oxygen is carried throughout your body with your blood that helps fight bacteria and stimulates the release of a substance called stem cells and growth factors that promotes healing.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

An adequate supply of oxygen is needed by our body tissue to function. It will require even more oxygen to survive if the tissue is injured.

This therapy increases the amount of oxygen and this will temporarily restore normal levels of blood gases to fight infection and promote healing.

Your doctor may recommend this if you have:

  • Brain abscess
  • Severe anemia
  • Burn
  • Arterial gas embolism
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness
  • Sudden deafness
  • Crushing injury
  • Infection of bone or skin that causes tissue death
  • Gangrene
  • Radiation injury
  • Non-healing wounds such as diabetic foot ulcer
  • Painless and Sudden vision loss
  • Skin flap or skin graft at risk of tissue death

This therapy can also treat these conditions but not enough evidence to support claims:

3 Potential Risks

Complications are rare for hyperbaric oxygen therapy because this is a safe procedure but treatments may have some risks such as:

  • Middle ear injuries such as eardrum rupture and leaking fluid because of the increased air pressure
  • Temporary nearsightedness or myopia because of temporary eye lens changes
  • Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system
  • Lung collapses because of barotraumas
  • Fire due to oxygen-rich environment of the treatment chamber

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In preparing for your hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you must follow your doctor’s orders. 

You are not allowed to take items such as lighters or battery-powered devices into the chamber because pure oxygen can cause a fire if a flame or spark ignites a source of fuel.

You may also need to remove hair and skin care products which are petroleum based or potentially a fire hazard to limit sources of excess fuel.

Talk to your doctor about the instructions before you undergo this therapy.

5 What to Expect

Here you can find out what to expect from your hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

This therapy does not require hospitalization because this is an outpatient procedure.

You will be transported to a hyperbaric oxygen facility or you will remain in the hospital for therapy if you are already hospitalized and you need hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

You may receive this therapy in one of two settings:

  • A room designed to accommodate several people which is called multiperson hyperbaric oxygen room and in this room you can sit or lie down, you will be given a mask over your face.
  • A unit designed for 1 person which is called monoplace that you can sit or lie down on a table that slides into a clear plastic tube.

The air pressure in the room is about two to three times normal air pressure in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy and this air pressure will create a temporary feeling of fullness in your ears.

You can swallow or yawn to relieve yourself of that feeling. This therapy lasts up about two hours. You can return to your normal activities but you may feel a little hungry or tired after the therapy.

6 Procedure Results

The results of a hyperbaric oxygen therapy will be given by your doctor. Ask your doctor how many sessions do you need depending on your medical condition.

Some conditions such as non-healing wounds may require 20 to 40 treatments while others like carbon monoxide poisoning only require three sessions.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone can often effectively treat decompression sickness, arterial gas embolism, and severe carbon monoxide poisoning.

This therapy is also administered with other therapies and drugs and is used as part of a comprehensive plan to effectively treat other conditions.

7 Related Clinical Trials