Hyperbarics 101: What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

HBOT is a medical treatment in which the patient breathes 100% pure oxygen, administered under increased atmospheric pressure inside a pressurized chamber. Treatments usually last from 60-90 minutes and are administered by a qualified hyperbaric technician. Patients receive treatment in either a monoplace (single person) or multiplace (two or more people) pressurized chamber. Patients must be approved for treatment by a medical doctor.

During HBOT therapy, there is substantial increase in the amount of oxygen carried in all body fluids, including plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, lymph and intracellular fluids. The increased pressure (typically 2 times normal atmospheric pressure) causes an increase of up to 2,000% in plasma oxygen concentrations with a resultant increase in tissue oxygenation. This allows increased oxygen levels even in areas with poor or compromised blood, as well as in areas of tissue oxygenation. The effect is delivered via the lungs to the developing capillary bed where it helps capillaries proliferate white blood cells and fibroblasts create new tissue. It can reach bone and tissue, which are inaccessible to the blood cells, enhance white blood cells, enhance white blood cell function, and promote the formation of new capillary and peripheral blood vessels. This results in increased infection control and faster healing of a wide range of conditions.

Originally developed during the 1930’s, HBOT has long been recognized as the definitive treatment for decompression sickness, air embolism (diatrogenic and diving related) and carbon monoxide poisoning. During the last few years, HBOT has emerged as a helpful, and many times curative, therapy for such additional conditions as: cerebral palsy, burns, cerebral edema (brain swelling), sickle cell anemia, gangrene, near drowning, severed limbs, smoke inhalation, spinal cord injury, organic brain syndrome, stroke, coma, multiple sclerosis, hearing loss, radiation myelitis, crush injuries, soft tissue, non-healing fractures, tendon and ligament injuries, delayed wound healing, decubitus ulcers, frostbite, diabetic retinopathy, migraine and cluster headache, myocardial infarction, chronic fatigue, HIV-related fatigue, Bell’s palsy, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, autism, Crohn’s disease, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and osteoradionecrosis (bone degeneration after radiation exposure), to list a few. It is recommended that HBOT be used as an adjunctive therapy to those treatments already being given to the patient.