The tissues in a human body need oxygen to function properly and heal when injured. When oxygen levels are increased, it improves the rate at which these tissues function and directly influences the rate of healing. This treatment is known as hyperbaric medicine.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is the method used during hyperbaric treatments. It is non-invasive, painless, and can be used as either a primary or complementary treatment. When undergoing an HBOT treatment, the patient is required to inhale 100% oxygen under conditions where an increase in atmospheric pressure is controlled.

What is HBOT used for?

Although there is pressure for the approval of more conditions, the Food and Drug Administration has already listed 13 conditions which may be treated. Several medical professionals have started experimenting with the treatment of more conditions, but the conditions listed below are the only ones that are covered thus far.

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Gas gangrene
  • Flesh-eating disease
  • Gas or air embolisms
  • Decompression sickness
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Arterial insufficiency
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Unhealed diabetic wounds
  • Delayed radiation injury, for example, as a result of cancer treatment
  • Skin graft or flap at the risk of tissue death

What are the benefits of HBOT?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has various effects. The lesser-known of these is the shrinking of air bubbles in blood or tissue and lessening inflammation or re-perfusion injuries. However, the main effects are delivering improved levels of oxygen to damaged tissue, promoting the growth of new blood vessels to the state of hypoxic tissue, and enhancing the body’s ability to destroy certain bacteria.

What are the risks of HBOT?

Although rare, like with any medical procedure there are possible side effects. Potential risks of receiving hyperbaric oxygen include seizures, low blood sugar levels, a temporary change in vision, lung collapse, and middle ear injuries.

Most of these risks are increased by underlying conditions. Discussing them with your medical practitioner will be the best route to take in order to determine your specific risks.

How does HBOT take place?

Treatments take place in a chamber specially designed for HBOT. The number and frequency of treatments will vary depending on the condition that needs to be treated and can last for up to 2 hours a day. Depending on the treatment required, a different hyperbaric oxygen chamber will be used.

Chambers commonly found in hospitals and made from steel are known as hard chambers while soft chambers are compact in size, easy to use, and often purchased by private individuals. Chambers can also be multiplace or monoplace which means that treatment is received alongside several other people (multi) or in a small, enclosed space (mono).

To say the least, HBOT can be lifesaving. This treatment has been developed significantly since its first use in 1662 by a British physician. Although treatment can be costly, insurance covers the treatment of approved conditions, and chambers can also be bought for private use at home. When done repeatedly, the benefits of HBOT will be experienced even after treatments.