Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is a medical treatment prescribed by a doctor to enhance the body’s ability to heal. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe 100% pure oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber. The pressure inside this chamber is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This high pressure environment allows your blood to carry more oxygen to all parts of your body to repair injured tissue. HBO therapy also helps to fight certain infections, such as those that occur in the bone.
Once you are in the hyperbaric chamber and the door is closed, you will hear the oxygen beginning to circulate as the technician starts the gradual increase in pressure. This is called compression. Some patients experience a temporary warmth, but after the initial compression period, the temperature will regulate and be very comfortable. During compression, you may feel a fullness or popping sensation in your ears similar to what is felt while flying in a plane or driving in the mountains. Your technician will teach you how to clear your ears to relieve this sensation. The compression period generally lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. Once the compression period is over, you will no longer feel the fullness in your ears. You will remain in the chamber for 1.5 to 2 hours. During this time, you may rest or sleep, watch television or listen to music. Near the end of your treatment, the technician will gradually decrease the pressure inside the chamber. This is called decompression.
Many different conditions have been shown to benefit from HBO therapy, especially chronic, non-healing wounds. HBO therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments.
Conditions treated with HBO therapy include:
• Slow to heal or non-healing wounds
• Diabetic foot ulcers or leg ulcers
• Non-healing skin grafts or surgical flaps
• Surgical wounds that have opened
• Symptoms occurring on or around a point of radiation (such as pain, rectal or bladder bleeding)
• Chronic bone infections (osteomyelitis)
• Crush injuries
• Certain types of sudden hearing loss
• Sudden vision loss
• Thermal burns
Prior to your treatment, your physician will discuss with you potential risks and side effects. Most patients experience no side effects from HBO therapy. However, some patients may feel ear discomfort or sinus pressure.