Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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HBO chamber Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides air that is highly pressurized and saturated with oxygen. The therapy is painless, and side effects are usually minor. The patient lies comfortably in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which is transparent and cylindrical. The patient can communicate with the attending nurse at all times through a two-way telephone intercom. While receiving therapy, the patient can watch television or a movie, or sleep.

How does hyperbaric oxygen work?

HBO therapy increases the oxygen that reaches all the cells of the body. This stimulates the growth of new blood vessels and enhances wound healing. It can also arrest certain types of infections.

Conditions that may be treated with HBO

HBO may be used to treat complicated wounds such as osteomyelitis (bone infections), compromised skin grafts, and radionecrosis (tissue damage resulting from radiation treatments). HBO is also used to treat certain critical conditions, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, necrotizing infections, gas embolism, and decompression sickness (the bends).

Treatment procedures

Several factors determine treatment. Acute conditions may require one to two treatments daily for a few days. Chronic conditions may require therapy five days a week for a few months. Most treatments last 90 minutes, but this time may vary depending on the diagnosis and treatment plan.

Possible side effects

The risks associated with HBO are minimal. Patients may experience “sinus squeeze,” pressure in the middle ear, temporary changes in vision, and fatigue. Patients with colds or upper respiratory infections may be more likely to have these side effects and should delay HBO treatment, except in case of an emergency. Diabetic patients may experience a sudden drop in blood sugar during HBO therapy. Therefore, blood sugar levels are checked just before treatment. If the levels are low, HBO therapy is postponed.

A chest x-ray of all potential HBO therapy patients checks for any pre-existing condition that could lead to lung complications during treatment. A collapsed lung or seizure is a possible, but rare, complication of HBO therapy.

All treatment procedures are carefully designed to minimize the risk of oxygen toxicity. Strict safeguards are followed to avoid these complications.

For more information about HBO medicine, visit the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Web site.