About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

emptyhyperbaricchamberWound healing is a complex process and one of its key requirements is oxygen. Healing tissue can require twenty times more oxygen than healthy tissue. In some patients, a lack of oxygen in the injured tissue, known as ischemia or hypoxia, prevents the body from healing efficiently. This can also provide an opening for infectious organisms, further delaying or preventing the healing process.

As part of a comprehensive wound treatment approach, HBOT is a safe, effective adjunctive method of providing the necessary oxygen for healing in patients with chronic wounds. HBOT promotes vascular formation, facilitates the action of the body’s healing cells, and has also been shown to inhibit the growth of infectious bacteria.

HBOT is administered in a specialized chamber where the pressure is increased to two or three times normal atmospheric pressure while the patient breathes 100 percent pure oxygen. This treatment increases oxygen levels in the blood and tissue fluids, producing a healing effect when disease processes decrease tissue oxygen levels. Physicians usually refer patients to the program to treat non-healing wounds, such as diabetic ulcers or problems with wound healing after surgery or radiation therapy.

Hyperbaric treatments are painless. Patients may experience a sensation of fullness in the ears, similar to the feeling when driving down a mountain, flying or scuba diving. This feeling occurs as the eardrums respond to changes in air pressure. The hyperbaric medical technician will show the patient how to relieve this fullness to decrease discomfort during the treatment. Although many people have some feelings of anxiety, the hyperbaric staff will work with the patient to make treatments as relaxing as possible.

Once in the chamber with the door closed, patients will hear the oxygen as it begins to circulate. As pressure within the chamber increases, patients may notice mild temporary warmth. A hyperbaric medical technician will remain with patients to adjust the rate of compression according to tolerance and will coach them on relieving the fullness in the ears. The compression phase of the treatment generally lasts 10-15 minutes, depending on how effective patients are in clearing their ears.

When the prescribed pressure has been reached, the re-occurring fullness in the ears will cease. Patients may watch television, rest or sleep during the remainder of the treatment, which usually lasts about 1 ½ hours. Near the end of the treatment, the hyperbaric medical technician will gradually decrease the pressure to a normal level over a 15-20 minute period, depending on the treatment protocol. During decompression, patients may experience a popping sensation in the ears as a result of the decreasing pressure. This is a normal adjustment in the ears, similar to what happens when driving up a mountain or taking off in an airplane.