Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury.
In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.
Why it’s done
Your body’s tissues need an adequate supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. An increase in blood oxygen temporarily restores normal levels of blood gases and tissue function to promote healing and fight infection.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat several medical conditions. And medical institutions use it in different ways.
Potential risks include:
Temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by temporary eye lens changes
Middle ear injuries, including leaking fluid and eardrum rupture, due to increased air pressure
Lung collapse caused by air pressure changes (barotrauma)
Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system
In certain circumstances, fire — due to the oxygen-rich environment of the treatment chamber
How you prepare
Pure oxygen can cause fire if a spark or flame ignites a source of fuel. Because of this, you can’t take items such as lighters or battery-powered devices into the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. In addition, to limit sources of excess fuel, you may need to remove hair and skin care products that are petroleum based and potentially a fire hazard. Ask a member of your health care team for specific instructions before your first hyperbaric oxygen therapy session.
After hyperbaric oxygen therapy
You may feel somewhat tired or hungry following your treatment. This doesn’t limit normal activities.