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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. HBOT is an established treatment for decompression sickness (a potential risk of scuba diving). Other conditions treated with HBOT include infections, air bubbles in blood vessels, and wounds that may not heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased two to three times higher than normal. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather much more oxygen than breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. When your blood carries this extra oxygen throughout your body, this helps fight bacteria and stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

Additional Resources:

How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy works

What Research Says about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

What Is a Hyperbaric Chamber?

A hyperbaric chamber itself is a pressurized chamber resembling a tube that's large and wide enough to fit an average adult. It will either be clear or have windows large enough for you to see outside. You typically enter the chamber by lying on your back on a flat table, which then slides into the chamber, similar to an MRI machine.

What Is Hyperbaric Treatment Like?

The exact details of the procedure may vary between technicians and facilities, but the treatment itself remains the same.

The air pressure inside the chamber increases up to three times the normal amount. The procedure lasts about two hours, during which technicians will carefully monitor your vitals and the chamber’s functions. When you are done, you will receive a final checkup before you leave.

Some hyperbaric treatment facilities treat you in a specialized room called a multiplace hyperbaric oxygen chamber. It functions the same way as a single unit, sometimes with multiple other patients. In these rooms, you receive oxygen through a mask over your face or a see-through hood over your head.

Soft Hyperbaric Chamber

Hard hyperbaric chambers are typically how you receive hyperbaric oxygen. They are pressurized up to 3.0 atmospheres, which has a stronger effect on the body. The process of receiving oxygen through a hard chamber is described above.

Soft (or mild) hyperbaric chambers are portable and inflatable chambers with lower pressure. Specifically, they can only reach internal pressures of 1.3 atmospheres maximum.

Some patients prefer to use them in their homes. You enter a soft chamber by unzipping it and climbing inside. However, they do not attach to oxygen tanks or concentrators and treat only by changing air pressure. You risk fire or suffocation if you do not use them properly.

Always use medical equipment approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Because of their low pressure, these chambers do not treat severe or multiple types of illness or injury. These hyperbaric medicine systems are only authorized by the FDA for use by individuals suffering from acute mountain sickness (AMS). AMS is typically experienced by people who travel to a place with higher air pressure than they are used to and whose bodies react poorly to the change in pressure and not for wound healing or emergency medicine.

History of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Wound healing of damaged tissue is only one of the benefits of hyperbaric medicine. Be aware that hyperbaric treatment is officially approved to treat only a few conditions. Speak with your healthcare provider about what is treated by hyperbaric oxygen and which cannot.

Conditions that hyperbaric oxygen is approved by the FDA and Medicare to treat include:

  • Actinomycosis
  • Anemia/blood loss
  • Arterial gas embolisms
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chronic osteomyelitis
  • Crushing injuries
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness/”the bends”
  • Diabetic ulcers and other non-healing injuries
  • Gangrene
  • Intracranial abscesses
  • Necrosis, skin graft flaps, and other soft tissue infections
  • Radiation injuries
  • Sudden deafness or vision loss
  • Thermal burns

Risks / Side Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Like any treatment, hyperbaric oxygen therapy carries some risks and side effects.

During the procedure, you may experience pain, pressure, or a “plugging” sensation in the ear and sinuses, as well as temporary vision changes and numbness in the fingers. Though rare, injuries to the middle ear and lung collapse can occur. If you have had recent ear surgery or lung disease, do not pursue hyperbaric treatment.

Patients also report feelings of claustrophobia inside the hyperbaric chamber.

In addition, oxygen is flammable, and improperly maintained facilities or unqualified technicians can result in explosions and fires. Stay safe and well informed: only receive hyperbaric treatment from qualified professionals in FDA-approved facilities.

Anti-Cancer Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

HBOT For Cancer Treatments

While according to the FDA, hyperbaric healing chambers do not cure conditions such as cancer, studies have been performed to test their effectiveness in cancer therapy.

Hyperbaric treatments target cancer by increasing the oxygen in cancer cells, making them more susceptible to radiation treatments and chemotherapy. In short, it does not cure cancer but makes other cancer treatments more effective.

Despite initial concerns that the treatment could cause cancer cells to grow or metastasize, there is currently no evidence indicating that it worsens or brings back cancer cells.

Frequently asked questions about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

How many treatments will I need?
Will HBOT be my only treatment?
What is the success rate of HBOT?
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The Best 67 Integrative Cancer Treatment Centers that offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

References of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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