Hyperbaric Medicine Center in Denver

The Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center is recognized nationally in providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment and hosts the only hyperbaric-certified team of physicians, nurses and technologists in the Denver metro area. In addition, we have the only multiplace hyperbaric chamber—a chamber that can accommodate several patients at once and is larger and less confining than a single-patient chamber—in the entire Rocky Mountain West region.

To schedule an appointment with a hyperbaric medicine specialist or to get more information, please call (720) 754-6900.

Hours of Operation

We are open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We are closed on Fridays and holidays, and an appointment is required.

The Wound Healing Center is located on the first floor of the hospital. From the main entrance, go up the stairs on the east side of the entryway. Walk to the end of the hallway, past the Career Center. Turn left and just past the "B" elevators, turn right and walk down a long hallway. The Wound Healing Center is on the right side of the hallway at the very end.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and how does it work?

Hyperbaric medicine chamber

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment where patients breathe in 100 percent oxygen within a contained environment, or chamber, to help fight infection and promote the repair of damaged tissue through the growth of new blood vessels. Inside the chamber, the air pressure is gradually increased to 2-3 times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. This highly-pressurized environment allows the lungs to safely take in more oxygen than normal. The red blood cells, which usually carry most of the oxygen in the blood, are quickly filled, and the extra oxygen is dissolved directly in the plasma, the liquid portion of the blood.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy typically induces healing over many treatments. It is a gradual process that requires a period of high oxygen content in the tissues followed by a period of lower oxygen content, which starts a momentum of healing.

Hyperbaric medicine FAQs

  • What is your hyperbaric chamber like?
    • The three cylindrical pressure chambers measure eight feet across and are linked in an L-shape. Two are equipped to treat critically ill patients and together can accommodate up to 18 patients and six clinical staff. The third hyperbaric chamber links the two-patient hyperbaric chambers and allows staff and equipment access without affecting treatments in progress.
    • Outside the chamber, trained technicians control the chamber's environment using a wide panel of gauges. Inside, patients are attended to throughout their treatment by our hyperbaric staff, which includes a dedicated group of physicians, critical care nurses and respiratory therapists. By providing patient care in the hyperbaric chamber, we are uniquely equipped to treat the sickest and critically-ill patients.
  • Is this just like physical therapy?
    • Hyperbaric oxygen is a medical procedure, more like surgery than physical therapy. While technicians and nurses provide some of the hands-on care, the Hyperbaric Medicine Specialist directs and supervises all aspects of the treatment regimen. Hyperbaric oxygen has the capability to heal like no other medical treatment. It also has the ability to harm. It should only be done under the direct supervision of a medical specialist.
  • Does HBOT hurt?
    • You will not have any pain, but your ears may feel full.
  • Do I have to come every day?
    • That depends largely on your medical condition. While some injuries, like carbon monoxide poisoning or decompression sickness, can often be treated with a single hyperbaric treatment, radiation injuries and chronic wounds will require additional treatments.
  • Can I come twice in a day?
    • Studies show that twice-daily treatments, except for critically ill patients, do not increase the healing rate or decrease the healing time. We find a treatment schedule of at least five out of seven days ensures ongoing healing.
  • What’s the difference between HBOT and oxygen bars?
    • . Breathing oxygen at ordinary atmospheric pressures for short periods of time provides little benefit for any medical conditions. If it did, oxygen bars would be as numerous as brewpubs! Higher concentrations of oxygen for longer periods of time can cause significant lung damage. In short, low doses of oxygen have little effect on most of the problems that we treat with hyperbaric oxygen, and higher doses must be given in a controlled fashion to limit the risk of complications.

Conditions treated with hyperbaric medicine

Non-healing wounds

Non-healing wounds are wounds that do not heal with conventional medical and surgical treatment. A large supply of oxygen is required for effective wound healing.

Scarring of tissue, due to radiation, chronic infection, repeated surgeries or inflammatory disease processes such as vasculitis, decreases the blood supply to tissue at the microscopic level, interfering with healing. HBOT or a combination of plastic/reconstructive surgery and HBOT often allows for more effective healing.

Acute arterial insufficiency

Acute arterial insufficiency occurs when tissues do not receive enough oxygen or arterial blood supply, often as the result of trauma, surgery, frostbite or a blood clot, and can lead to an increased formation of blood clots or narrowing of blood vessels.

The high blood levels of oxygen achieved by HBOT can deliver sufficient oxygen to aid blood vessels in recovering to their normal function.

Chronic bone infections

When bone is exposed in an open wound or exposed to microorganisms by the blood, it is prone to becoming infected. Removal of dead bone and intravenous antibiotic therapy remain the mainstays of treatment for bone infections.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can provide the oxygen needed to aid in white blood cell function, when standard surgical and antibiotic treatments have failed to resolve a bone infection.

Decompression sickness and air embolism

Also known as "diver's disease," decompression illness (DCI) is a sickness that occurs from a reduction in the surrounding air pressure and most commonly affects scuba divers and others who work in compressed air environments. When scuba diving, for example, more oxygen and nitrogen dissolve in body tissues, and while the tissues absorb the extra oxygen, the blood must wash out the excess nitrogen during decompression. During or after ascent, this excess nitrogen gas can form bubbles in the tissues just like the carbon dioxide bubbles that form when a carbonated beverage is opened. These bubbles can cause symptoms known as decompression sickness (also referred to as "the bends").

AGE occurs when gas is trapped within the lungs during ascent, forcing bubbles into the bloodstream. This blocks the flow of blood and can damage the lining of blood vessels that supply blood to critical organs such as the brain.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the recommended treatment for DCS or AGE and is best administered within a few hours after the onset of symptoms. While most patients only need one hyperbaric oxygen treatment to receive the greatest benefit, continued treatments may be recommended until no further improvement can be observed.

Post-radiation healing complications

Radiation therapy is commonly used in the treatment of cancer and has cured, or extended the lives, of untold numbers of cancer survivors. However, radiation can have an adverse effect on normal tissue, primarily by causing inflammation of the tiny capillaries that provide oxygen to all the tissues in the radiation field. Over time, these capillaries scar, preventing blood flow and oxygen from reaching the tissues.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) raises tissue oxygen levels above normal to restore healing capacity to tissues otherwise unable to repair themselves. Recent studies have also shown that HBOT leads to the release of stem cells from the bone marrow – migration of these stem cells to tissues changed by radiation may be an important factor in the increased healing associated with HBOT.

Although the process is slow, often requiring several weeks of treatment, HBOT is a useful tool for healing tissues damaged by radiation therapy.

Other common conditions treated with HBOT