Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: What Patients Need to Know 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a treatment that uses the inhalation of pure oxygen for wounds, infections, and various other ailments. It’s gentle and painless especially for those with non-healing wounds or poor blood circulation. In this article, we will discuss how HBOT works, its benefits, and how to decide if this treatment is right for you.

How Does HBOT Work?

HBOT uses a chamber or small room that is entirely sealed to prevent outside air from coming in. The atmospheric pressure in the space is raised to three times higher, which means that during treatment, triple the amount of pure oxygen is entering your lungs compared to normal levels.

Oxygen in its purest form promotes production of new blood vessels and tissue repair. When healing a wound or infection, oxygen is carried through the body by red blood cells away from the heart and to the affected site. Oxygen helps encourage the growth of new cells, tissues, and skin while preventing infection, killing bacteria, and reducing inflammation.

Various other ailments can also be treated by HBOT, including decompression sickness, bone infections, radiation injuries, or diabetic and ulcerative wounds. However, patients should be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  has no conclusive evidence that HBOT is safe or effective for some diseases and conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, and stroke.

What Should I Expect Before Starting HBOT?

HBOT is a completely non-invasive treatment that requires very little work on the part of the patient. Most often, the patient will be able to relax and watch TV while spending anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours breathing in the pure oxygen.

Before your session, you may need to avoid specific medications, such as chemotherapies or use of topical ointments that could interfere with the oxygen’s ability to target affected sites. Be sure to consult with your doctor about the medications you use prior to your first session.

During your session, you may sit in either a room or in an enclosed chamber. It’s important to communicate your preference with your doctor prior to treatment, especially if you experience anxiety or claustrophobia. Keep in mind that breathing in pure oxygen can exacerbate claustrophobia.

After your session, typical side effects include fatigue, fluid buildup in your ears and/or sinuses, and possible ear or sinus pain brought on by the raised air pressure of the space on the body. However, those with specific pre-existing conditions may experience more severe side effects from the therapy. Be sure to inform your doctor of any other health complications before moving forward with HBOT.

To learn more about HBOT and how oxygen aids in the healing process, check out these articles:

What to Know Before Receiving Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy – University of Michigan
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Don’t Be Misled  – FDA
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – Cleveland Clinic

From the Acuity Family, we hope this article assists in your exploration of alternative wound and infection treatment options. However, we encourage you to speak to your doctor first to discuss your current health conditions, availability of treatment, and any other HBOT – related concerns.