by Justin LaClair January 04, 2022 5 min read

What is it?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a potential risk of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your 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 air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather much more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. When your blood carries this extra oxygen throughout your body, this helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

How Does It Work?

Pressurized hyperbaric chambers enable the body to absorb more oxygen per volume of compressed air. The human body transports breathable oxygen through the bloodstream. Oxygen is carried in the hemoglobin of red blood cells. When an individual inhales pressurized air containing a higher concentration of oxygen, that oxygen is also driven into the body’s fluids, where it intensely saturates the tissues and organs. This increased pressure can also send oxygen to the hard-to-reach places in the body, including areas of injury aggravated by damaged circulation. This is advantageous for people suffering from Diabetes or Stroke, where their circulation is compromised. There are other treatment options that we will discuss below.

HBOT Chamber Differences

There are different style HBOT Chambers. There are mild HBOT chambers (mHBOT) that are generally a soft shelled chamber. They can ALSO be hard shelled. They can lay horizontally so you lay down in it. They can also be Vertical for you to stand in. They are also made wheelchair accesible if needed. These chambers are pressurized with an auxilliary compressor that will pump ambient air (21% Oxygen) in to the chamber. The air can sometimes be hot, so you can buy an "Air Chiller" add-on where the chambers air is literally blown through an ice chest to add an air conditioning effect. These mHBOT chambers are found in patients homes for use by themselves. Pure Oxygen will be administered via nasal cannula or face mask, utilizing an oxygen port on the wall of the chamber.

The oxygen source will typically be an oxygen cylinder or a high pressure Oxygen Concentrator like the two we offer here:

Airsep Intensity 10LPM 22PSI

Drive Devilbiss 1025DS 10LPM 22PSI

Conversely, only medical-grade hyperbaric oxygen chambers are pressurized with 100% pure oxygen, instead of ambient air like an mHBOT chamber discussed above. Medical grade HBOT chambers may only be operated by specially trained technicians working under the supervision of a physician, as this method has many safety hazards.

Why It's Done

Your body's tissues need an adequate supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive and repair itself. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. With repeated scheduled treatments, the temporary extra high oxygen levels encourage normal tissue oxygen levels, even after the therapy is completed. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat several medical conditions. And medical institutions use it in different ways.

Your doctor may suggest hyperbaric oxygen therapy if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Severe anemia
  • Brain abscess
  • Crushing injury
  • Deafness, sudden
  • Decompression sickness
  • Gangrene Radiation injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Vision loss, sudden and painless

The following is a list of all FDA-approved uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy:

  • Air embolism
  • Gas embolism
  • Acute traumatic ischemia
  • Burns
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Exceptional blood loss
  • Decompression sickness
  • Gas gangrene
  • Necrotizing infections
  • Severe anemia
  • Skin grafts and flaps
  • Wound healing

Potential Risks

It is important that HBOT therapy is done under the observance of a trained professional, to help avoid the following: Middle ear injuries, including leaking fluid and eardrum rupture, due to changes in air pressure Temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by temporary eye lens changes Lung collapse (barotrauma) caused by air pressure changes Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system Lowered blood sugar in people who have diabetes treated with insulin In certain circumstances, fire — due to the oxygen-rich environment of the treatment chamber.

Do I need Supplemental Oxygen?

Do I need an oxygen concentrator for my hyperbaric chamber to work? Your hyperbaric chamber will function properly without an accompanying oxygen concentrator, but the decision to enrich your oxygen intake while receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one that should be made between you and your doctor. If a user’s doctor prescribes an oxygen concentrator, the user can increase the oxygen density inside their home hyperbaric chamber. Mild hyperbaric chambers for home use pressurize and inflate with ambient air, which contains 21% oxygen (at sea level). The FDA has approved mild hyperbaric chambers for certain uses under the condition that they’re pressurized with ambient air. While the amount of oxygen in a mild hyperbaric chamber will never reach 100%, users may purchase a prescribed oxygen concentrator to increase oxygen density within the chamber.

Why would a doctor prescribe an oxygen concentrator?

Research has shown positive results using mHBOT for many conditions when the individual is treated with additional oxygen delivered via an oxygen concentrator. However, evidence suggests different protocols are necessary, depending on the psi and the model of oxygen concentrator *BOLD* Results To benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you'll likely need more than one session. The number of sessions is dependent upon your medical condition. Some conditions, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, might be treated in three visits. Others, such as nonhealing wounds, may require 40 treatments or more. To effectively treat approved medical conditions, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually part of a comprehensive treatment plan provided with other therapies and drugs that are designed to fit your individual needs.

Glossary of Terms

What does mHBOT stand for?

mHBOT stands for Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. It is different from high-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy due to the lower level of both atmospheric pressure and oxygen delivered to the bloodstream.

What is a “dive”?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy began as a treatment for the bends, also referred to as decompression sickness. This condition occurs when deep-sea divers ascend for the surface too quickly, not giving the now-pressurized gases trapped in tissues and joints adequate time to expand and safely re-enter the bloodstream. At times, a hyperbaric treatment session is called a ‘dive’ in reference to this early use.

Oxygen Concentrator

Ambient air (i.e., the air that's around us) consists of approximately 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen and other gases. An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that administers almost 100% pure oxygen to the user. An oxygen concentrator pulls in ambient air, filters it, then it's delivered to the user, typically via a face mask or nasal cannula. Like a chamber, a concentrator needs a prescription.

Monoplace Hyperbaric Chambers

Monoplace hyperbaric chambers are designed to accommodate only one user. Monoplace chambers can be hard or soft. They are purchased for home-use and clinical-use. Most are horizontal but you can find a few that are vertical. One primary disadvantage of a monoplace chamber is that the patient is isolated and confined to a relatively small place. It may be a bit difficult to endure a long treatment, especially if the patient is claustrophobic.

Multiplace Hyperbaric Chambers

Multiplace chambers are a popular option for hospitals and medical centers, although they are more expensive than monoplace chambers. Multiplace chambers can hold between 2 to 18 patients, depending on the chamber. In the chamber, patients may sit in a chair or recline. The biggest advantage of multiplace chambers is the extra room provided - for medical equipment, gym equipment, or even another user. In accordance, this type of chamber is best suited for patients that need to bring medical equipment inside the chamber during treatment, athletes that want to exercise while receiving treatment, users that are claustrophobic, and families that want to receive treatment simultaneously with their children.

Justin LaClair
Justin LaClair

Justin has been working with OxygenPlus since their storefront start in 1993. In 2002 he earned the title of CEO and has been operating OxygenPlus ever since. Most of the time if you call, Justin will answer the phone. He tries to be extremely hands on with most every transaction that takes place. Raised with a very high quality standard, any work must meet his satisfaction before it is approved. He is a classic car enthusiast, loves traveling either for work or pleasure, and is a renewable energy advocate. As of 2015, he saw to it that his personal home, and OxygenPlus Medical run 100% off of solar power.

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