Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is a medical treatment prescribed by a doctor to enhance the body's natural healing process. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe 100 percent pure oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber. The air pressure inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere.
This "hyperbaric" (or high pressure) dose of oxygen helps your blood carry more oxygen to organs and tissues to promote wound healing. HBO therapy also activates the white blood cells to fight infection.
HBO therapy process
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 "full" 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, the fullness in your ears will cease. 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. During decompression, you will once again experience a "fullness" or "popping" sensation in your ears. This is normal and will resolve once the decompression period is over.
HBO therapy indications
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:
- Diabetic foot ulcers.
- Ulcers from lack of blood flow (arterial insufficiency).
- Compromised skin flaps or grafts.
- Late effects of radiation.
- Chronic bone infections.
- Crush injuries.
- Certain types of sudden hearing loss.
- Sudden vision loss (due to central retinal artery occlusion).
HBO therapy side effects
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 have reported a "crackling" sensation in their ears between treatments. This may be relieved in the same manner you clear your ears during compression. Other minor side effects that have been reported include:
- Ear discomfort.
- Sinus pressure.
HBO therapy treatments
HBO therapy is an outpatient procedure that is provided once daily, for approximately four to six weeks. A staff member will tell you how many treatments you will need. Atreatment takes around two hours and is quite comfortable for most patients.
For HBO therapy to be effective, it must be provided five days a week. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is much like antibiotic treatment because it only works when taken regularly for the time prescribed by your physician.
We understand that coming to the HBO unit every day is a commitment, however, to obtain the greatest benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, we strongly advise coming to every scheduled appointment.
Compliance with your plan of care is the single most important factor in your healing. Our primary goal is to help you heal.
We encourage you to make a commitment to your healing.