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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Laura Castricone, CRT

According to Webster’s dictionary, in medical terms, hyperbaric means: “of, or relating to, or utilizing greater than normal pressure, especially of oxygen.” It has been known for many years that oxygen helps to speed the healing and regeneration of tissue that has been damaged.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy exposes wounds and/or damaged tissues or nerves to 100% oxygen at a higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure. The increase in pressure above sea level allows more oxygen to enter the lungs and therefore into the bloodstream.

Wounds have damaged blood vessels that leak fluid. As the area swells from this leaking fluid, it becomes more difficult for oxygenated blood to reach the wound. Hyperbaric therapy reduces swelling of the tissue so that oxygen can reach the wound and assist (hyperbaric oxygen therapy at home) in healing. It can disable the toxins of some bacteria and helps the tissue resist infection.

What conditions are treated by HBO therapy?

Believe it or not, the first foray into hyperbaric medicine was in 1662 when a physician built a sealed room with valves and bellows as it was believed that certain respiratory diseases could be treated this way.

In the early 1900s, it was used to treat decompression sickness in divers. In the 1960’s it was routinely used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning. Today, hyperbaric therapy has been approved for several health conditions:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Gas gangrene
  • Decompression sickness
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Crush injuries
  • Diabetic wounds that will not heal
  • Flesh-eating diseases
  • Skin grafts
  • Radiation injuries
  • Infections in the bone
  • Emergency medicine
  • Air bubble trapped in a blood vessel

Those listed above are what “insurance” deems appropriate use of hyperbaric therapy and for which they will cover the therapy. There are other “off-label” uses such as a cognitive decline in the brain, Alzheimer's disease, aging, fibromyalgia, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and Lyme disease to name a few. Although there has been success documented with the off-label use of hyperbaric oxygen, these conditions are not recognized by insurances as treatable via hyperbaric therapy and are therefore not covered.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is available with a prescription by your physician or health care provider. If you are ordered to be on this therapy, your provider will arrange for you to go to a hospital or private practice that has a hyperbaric chamber.

The doctor and technicians who man the chamber will give you instructions on how to dress and what to expect when you do go for HBO2 sessions. There are some “contra-indications” for hyperbaric treatment. The main ones are hypertension and high (over 300) or low (under 100) glucose levels. Hyperbaric does not come without risks.

The main risk of therapy is barotrauma from the increase in pressure. This can cause havoc on the sinuses, and eardrums, a tooth can crack or lung tissue can be damaged. There is also a risk of oxygen toxicity, seizures, visual changes, or pneumothorax.

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy work?

  • The patient comfortably resides within the pressurized chamber and breathes 100 percent oxygen.
  • Gradually, the amount of oxygen in the patient's blood increases, known as hyperoxia.
  • The hypoxic tissues (tissues deprived of O2) are supplied with high oxygen levels in the blood in the chamber.
  • The alternating hyperoxia and hypoxia promote the growth of new blood vessels into the hypoxic tissues.
  • Hyperoxia enhances the body's ability to kill certain bacteria.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Best Hyperbaric Chambers - FDA Certified

1. Summit to Sea Shallow Dive Hyperbaric Chamber

Shallow Dive 26" Hyperbaric Chamber is manufactured for self-treatment and assisted use. The E-series chamber shell has a translucent material that allows room light to diffuse into the chamber. The chamber also has an airflow that relies on electric air compressors operated with patented air suppression technology to maintain a relaxing atmosphere. The single bag nylon shell is easy to maneuver due to its lightweight and creates a durable seal.

Features of the Summit to Sea Shallow Dive 26"

  • The shallow dive is an 84" long chamber
  • Comes with four round foam bolsters
  • Has a double vent system
  • High-efficiency electric air pumps
  • Patented sound suppression technology

2. Summit to Sea Dive Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

The 33" diameter and a length of 102" make Summit to Sea Dive Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber large enough to accommodate an adult and a child simultaneously. This HBO chamber uses sound-suppression technology on the high-efficiency air compressor to calm the atmosphere with huge windows that allow natural light. The dive chamber also has a full-length, double-sided zipper for convenient entry and exit.

  • Comes with two viewing windows
  • Provides a pressure of 4.4 PSI – 1.3 ATA
  • Has one auxiliary valve
  • Facilitated with a unique failed circuit alarm
  • Well-equipped with two redundant compressors

3. Summit to Sea Grand Dive Vertical Hyperbaric Chamber

Summit to Sea Grand Dive Vertical Hyperbaric Chamber is a portable mild hyperbaric chamber. It is designed to allow a chair to sit cozily, providing occupants with a relaxing and comfortable experience. It has dual zippers that enable operation outside and inside the chamber. The redundant compressors offer optimal reliability, and translucent material allows a bright and airy interior.

Features of Summit to Sea Grand Dive Vertical Chamber 40"

  • Has a unique floor system including stabilizer
  • Antibacterial carpet for comfort
  • Full frame
  • Exclusive vertical zipper design
  • Height of 6.5 feet

FAQ: Understand Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Better

1. How long can you stay in a hyperbaric chamber?

While in the HBO chamber, the person lies on a table and breathes oxygen. Meanwhile, the pressure inside the chamber slowly increases. The barometric therapy may be over in less than 5 minutes or may continue for as long as two hours before the pressure returns to normal levels.

2. Can I buy a portable hyperbaric chamber for home?

Hyperbolic chamber treatment is also carried out at home. Anyone can buy a home hyperbaric chamber with a prescription issued by a health professional.

3. Does Hyperbaric Therapy prolong life?

Studies have shown that hyperbaric medicine can stop the aging of the blood cells in healthy adults. Experts also suggest that HBO therapy also reverses the aging process.

4. Can the use of oxygen therapy heal the lungs?

Supplemental O2 is not a cure for lung disease, but it is an important therapy that improves the functioning of the lungs and eases the symptoms of severe ailments.

5. Can using oxygen make the lungs weaker?

Barometric oxygen treatment is not addictive and does not weaken the lungs. Following all the instructions given by your doctor and using the O2 chamber only for the duration prescribed by professionals can offer optimum benefit.

6. Does HBO heal wounds quicker?

Wounds need oxygen to heal properly. A hyperbaric wound care strategy exposes a wound to 100% oxygen, enhancing the chances of quicker recovery.

7. How does it feel after the hyperbaric treatment?

Since the air pressure within the chamber is higher than normal air pressure, the increased air pressure creates a temporary feeling of fullness in the ears and possibly sinuses, quite similar to the feeling one gets in a flight or at a high elevation.

8. How long do the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy last?

The duration of the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can vary depending on the specific condition being treated and individual factors. In some cases, the effects of a single HBOT session may be temporary and short-lived, while in others, the benefits can be long-lasting.

9. Is hyperbolic treatment effective for PTSD?

Oxygen therapy, in general, is considered to have beneficial effects on depression symptoms and relieve stress. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments facilitate the body with 100 percent oxygen and help treat PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, the increased oxygen levels also improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote the growth of new tissue and blood vessels. HBOT for stress relief and well-being is a widely accepted treatment measure.

There are hyperbaric chambers available for purchase with a prescription. If you feel you would benefit from this therapy, have a discussion with your physician or healthcare provider and they will direct you. To purchase your own chamber, please visit Health Products For You, we have a selection to suit your needs. Happy Healing!


Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist

Laura Castricone (Certified Respiratory Therapist)

My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory care including sleep medicine, critical care, rehab, and home care. I earned my respiratory certification at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Prior to becoming an RT, I attended the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in English but left Uconn in my junior year to work with my father in the restaurant business. I stayed with him for over a dozen years. An education, by the way, that can never be bought! Once I married and had children, the restaurant business no longer fit my lifestyle. When my children were one and two years old, I decided to go back to school and that is where my career in respiratory care began. This career has been very rewarding and I have been blessed to meet some extraordinary people along the way. I grew up in Waterbury, CT, and now live in Litchfield County, CT with my husband and our crazy Jack Russell terrier, Hendrix. My hobbies include antiquing, gardening, writing plays, and painting miniature paintings.


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HPFY Laura Castricone, CRT

Laura Castricone, CRT

LinkedIn Profile My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory ...

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