What is Hyperbaric Medicine?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy ( HBOT) treatments are administered by breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized environment, usually in a hyperbaric treatment room or chamber.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning and 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, sudden sensorineural hearing loss and wounds that may not heal as a result of diabetes, radiation injury, or a compromised flap or graft.

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 it would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. As 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.
As the lungs take in large amounts of pressurized oxygen, the patient’s blood becomes more highly oxygenated. As the oxygen-rich blood circulates, it carries more oxygen to the affected areas, such as previously irradiated tissue that has become damaged.

Hyperbaric oxygen increases the dissolved oxygen and increases the amount of oxygenated plasma that is dissolved in damaged tissue. This is one of the primary mechanisms of HBOT that promote wound healing.

Hyperbaric Chamber

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work?

Pure and pressurized oxygen helps promote wound healing in several ways. Oxygen is normally concentrated in our red blood cells, but through HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into other bodily fluids (like plasma) and then transported to areas starved for oxygen. This process:

  • Reduces tissue swelling by flooding cells with oxygen
  • Promotes formation of new blood vessels, connective tissue, and skin cells
  • Prevents reperfusion injury (tissue damage) by encouraging natural oxygen radical scavengers to seek out problem areas
  • Resists infection by blocking harmful bacteria and strengthening the immune system