Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is oxygen, pure and simple
The air we breathe contains 21% oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This “hyperbaric” (or high pressure) dose of oxygen offers distinct therapeutic benefits and can be used to treat a variety of illnesses. It may be the primary treatment for some disorders, but it’s often combined with antibiotics and surgery.
How it works
You will be breathing 100% oxygen while placed in a comfortable hyperbaric chamber. The chamber is then pressurized. The therapy greatly increases the amount of oxygen delivered to body tissues by your blood. It is important to note that the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy result from an oxygen-enriched bloodstream and not from the oxygen’s direct contact with wounds. This is why wound dressings are usually left in place during treatment. Your doctor will discuss the specific reason for your referral to hyperbaric therapy, but generally this treatment provides one or more of the following effects:
- Enhanced wound healing
- Increased oxygen delivery to injured tissue
- Improved infection control
- Greater blood vessel formation
- Preservation of damaged tissues
- Elimination and reduced effects of toxic substances
- Reduction or elimination of gas-bubble obstructions
You’ll be relaxed and comfortable during therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen treatments occur while you lie comfortably in the chamber. Generally, you’ll feel no differently than if you were lying in your own bed. You can listen to music, watch TV or nap throughout the therapy. During certain parts of the treatment, you may experience a sensation of fullness in your ears — similar to when you’re flying in an airplane or driving down a mountain — as your eardrums respond to pressure changes. Prior to treatment, you will be taught several easy methods to avoid ear discomfort.
The number of treatments
Treatments are individualized to each patient. Wound healing cases may require 20 to 30 treatments for maximum benefit. Your hyperbaric medicine team will discuss your treatment course with you in detail before therapy begins. The exact number of treatments will be determined by your response to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Outpatients are normally treated once a day, five or six days a week.
After-effects are minimal
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy usually has no after effects. Some patients report a “crackling” in their ears between treatments. This can be relieved the same way ears are cleared of pressure changes during treatment. (If the “crackling” continues, report this to the staff.) Some patients may experience lightheadedness for several minutes after treatment, but this will soon pass, allowing resumption of normal daily activities. On rare occasions, patients may develop temporary changes in eyesight. In these cases, any altered vision usually returns to pretreatment levels within six to eight weeks after treatment ends. Naturally, like all medical treatments, hyperbaric oxygen therapy presents some risks, but these are quite rare and will be discussed with you before you consent to therapy.
Preparing for therapy
Your hyperbaric medicine team will discuss with you the specific preparations required before treatment. Some of these include:
Tobacco products constrict blood vessels and limit blood and oxygen delivery to tissues.
List all medications
It is very important that you give your hyperbaric medicine team a complete list of all medications you are taking. This includes non-prescription drugs. Some medications change the body’s response to oxygen. These will be discussed with you on an individual basis.
Delay for illness
Patients who experience cold or flu symptoms (like fever, cough, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea or generalized body aches) should immediately notify a hyperbaric staff member. These symptoms may require a temporary delay in your treatment schedule.
Clothing is provided for treatment
You will be provided with 100% cotton garments to wear during therapy. Also, personal items are not permitted in the hyperbaric chamber. These include:
- Cigarettes, matches and lighters
- Jewelry and all metal objects
- Hair spray and make-up
- Perfume, deodorant and shaving lotion
- Oils, lotions and grease
- Hair and skin products
- Books, magazines and other paper products
You will be asked to remove dentures, partial plates and hearing aids. You may also be asked to remove contact lenses and glasses.
Lockers are provided for your clothing and other items. Please do not bring valuable items to the Wound Center.
If you need any further information about hyperbaric oxygen therapy, please call your physician or a member of the hyperbaric medicine team.