Oxygen is needed for us to survive and the body to function; as we breathe oxygen is brought into the lungs which is transported by red blood cells to the body to be used to produce energy and sustain life.
Chronic wounds, infections, decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other serious conditions have been found to benefit from exposure to pure oxygen at levels much higher than normal; efficacy is said to be due to the physical relationships between gas concentration, volume and pressure and the increased oxygen is able to help control infections, reduce inflammation, reduce swelling, increase collagen deposition, and stimulate angiogenesis.
First used in the 1600s patients went into airtight chambers that could be compressed and decompressed; it was used in the early 20th century to treat the flu, and again in the 1940s to treat decompression sickness among Navy deep sea divers. In present day hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been deemed to be effective for several health conditions and as a non-invasive adjunctive treatment, but the FDA warns it may not be useful for every condition.
For HBOT a chamber is pressurized and provides pure oxygen in levels that are up to 3 times higher than average; as one sits/lays in the chamber they are breathing pure oxygen which will enter the blood and travel throughout the body to allow for aid in tissue repair and restoration of normal body function.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been approved for carbon monoxide poisoning, anemia due to severe blood loss, chronic wounds that don’t respond to conventional treatments, radiation wounds/injury, thermal burns, skin grafts, serious infections, gangrene, air or gas embolism, decompression sickness, and arterial insufficiency.
HBOT works to restore bacteria killing abilities of white blood cells in wounds, and has been shown to work synergistically with a number of antibiotics, and is sometimes used to treat complex wounds like leg ulcers resulting from blocked flow, radiation wounds, and surgical sounds.
HBOT has been shown to help improve neurological functions and quality of life for those recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury, and to improve symptoms of some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease; it has been found to reduce hypoxia and neuroinflammation.
A session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, the number of sessions varies depending on the patient’s condition, and the treatment play made by the doctor. Cost of the treatment varies, and it is approved by most major health insurance companies, but you can expect to pay a copay for each session.
With very few side effects hyperbaric oxygen therapy is typically well tolerated, but some may experience mild effects including sinus pain, ear pressure, and painful joints. Those that are claustrophobic may not do well in this treatment, and those with diabetes may experience a drop in blood sugar during treatment. More serious effects include difficulty breathing, seizures, paralysis and air embolism.
According to the FDA, “…hyperbaric oxygen therapy has not been proven to be the kind of universal treatment it has been touted to be on some Internet sites. FDA is concerned that some claims made by treatment centers using HBOT may give consumers the wrong impression that could ultimately endanger their health.” HBOT has not been cleared for HIV/AIDS, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, brain injury, cerebral palsy, bell’s palsy, and multiple sclerosis.