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Understanding Hyperbaric Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Hyperbaric Oxygenation; Hyperbaric Therapy; Hyperbaric Medicine; HBOT; HBO2

Pronounced: hi-purr-BEAR-ick ox-a-jen the-ra-pee

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment in which a patient breaths 100% oxygen while in a hyperbaric chamber (pressure vessel) at a barometric pressure greater than sea level. The dosage of oxygen is increased proportional to the increase in chamber pressure; i.e. breathing 100% oxygen at 3 atmospheres absolute pressure is the equivalent of getting 300% oxygen. The air we breathe each day has 21% oxygen. Most chambers are capable of pressurizing to 1.5 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. The hyperbaric physician determines what pressure the chamber needs to go to for any given treatment. See conditions we treat.

There are two main types of hyperbaric chamber. Monoplace: single patient, chamber pressurized with 100% oxygen, patient directly breaths the ambient chamber oxygen. Some units offer intermittent air breaks. Multiplace: multiple patients, attendant(s) accompany patient, chamber pressurized with air, patient breaths 100% oxygen via a breathing circuit. Air breaks are done by removing patient from breathing circuit. P/SL has a multiplace chamber.

Reasons for Hyperbaric Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used to treat many health problems, including:

  • An air bubble (embolism) which gets into the circulatory system and blocks blood flow
  • Decompression sickness, which can occur when divers or miners come to the surface too quickly
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Wound healing, especially in patients with poor circulation
  • Radiation therapy injuries following treatment for cancer
  • Skin grafts, flaps, or burns

What to Expect During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Prior to Procedure

  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Bring a book or an activity that you can do in the chamber.
  • You will be asked to change into hospital provided clothing.
  • You will be seen by the technical, nursing and physician staff.

During Hyperbaric Treatment

Depending on your medical condition you will either sit or lie down.  Along with the possibility of other patients in the chamber, you will always be accompanied by a hyperbaric staff person.

An outside technician will gradually pressurize the chamber. You will be able to talk to the inside attendant who will instruct you to:

  • Relax and breathe normally.
  • Follow ear equalization techniques reviewed with you prior to your first treatment. Swallow or blow with your nose pinched to relieve discomfort.
  • If your ears don't pop or you have discomfort, tell the attendant. They can lower the pressure, if needed, to help ear equalization.

After getting to the proper pressure, the attendant will connect a breathing circuit for you to receive your oxygen. The circuit will most likely be either a clear plastic hood or a mask. You will have 2-4 air breaks per treatment where the attendant will take off the breathing circuit for 5 minutes.

Immediately After Hyperbaric Therapy

Over a period of 15 minutes, the technician will slowly depressurize the hyperbaric chamber. You will likely have some ear popping, but do not blow your nose. Most of the conditions treated require a five day a week treatment schedule.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatment Length

Most treatments last 2 hours

Average Hospital Stay

Unless you have another medical condition requiring you to stay in the hospital, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an outpatient therapy.

Post-Procedure Care

In most cases, there is no special care after hyperbaric treatment. Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Discomfort or pain in your sinuses or ears
  • Onset of seizures
  • Vision problems
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain

In case of an emergency, CALL 911