Originally developed to help deep-sea divers overcome decompression sickness, also called "the bends," hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used today to accelerate the healing of wounds that are slow to close on their own. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also used to help fight certain types of infections and to treat conditions ranging from cyanide or carbon monoxide poisoning to radiation injuries.
What Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Involves
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialized treatment that allows you to breathe pure oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. High concentrations of oxygen are delivered to the bloodstream, ranging from 10 to 20 times the normal amount. This pure oxygen can penetrate areas that oxygen-carrying red blood cells cannot reach. As a result, it helps revitalize tissues that receive poor blood flow and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels.
Increased oxygen also enables more infection-fighting white blood cells to reach affected areas. Most patients require treatment over the course of several weeks to effectively treat wounds.
The Treatment Experience
Hyperbaric therapy is painless and most patients watch TV or sleep during their treatments. A Certified Hyperbaric Technologist (CHT) will monitor your treatment at all times and a physician will always be nearby. During treatment, once you are comfortably positioned inside the chamber, the technologist will slowly increase the air pressure. As the pressure increases initially and decreases at the end of the treatment, you may notice the same sensation you sometimes feel when changing altitude in an airplane. Your technologist will help you equalize the pressure between your ears, if necessary.