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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO) is a medical treatment where the entire body is exposed to 100 percent oxygen under increased pressure.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is not a replacement for other proven methods of treatment such as surgery or antibiotics. It is generally prescribed in conjunction with other forms of treatment and helps the body fight infection and can increase vascularization within the body. This increase in blood flow to the wound site and surrounding tissues may often be the missing component needed for a wound to heal.
How Does It Work?
As you read this, the atmosphere at sea level is exerting approximately 14.7 pounds of pressure on your body. This is considered one atmosphere of pressure. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, this pressure is increased an additional one to two atmospheres, to supersaturate your body with oxygen.
Increasing the atmospheric pressure dissolves the oxygen in your body tissues and fluids in a much higher rate than if you were to breathe the same concentration of oxygen under normal room conditions.
For the treatment, patients are placed in a hyperbaric chamber where 100 percent oxygen is circulated for them to breathe. As patients are resting and breathing the oxygen, the atmosphere in the chamber is gradually increased to the level prescribed by their physician.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Feel?
Hyperbaric Oxygen treatments consist of compression, treatment and decompression. Compression begins once patients are in the chamber and generally last 10-15 minutes. As the door is closed, oxygen will begin to circulate with the gradual increase in pressure. A staff member will adjust the rate of compression according to the patient's tolerance and coach him or her on relieving the full sensation in the ears, a process often referred to as equalizing or clearing.
When you have reached prescribed pressure, the recurrent fullness in the ears will cease and the patients are able to rest, sleep or watch TV during the remainder of the treatment.
Near the end of a treatment, the hyperbaric oxygen specialists will gradually decrease the pressure added at the beginning. This is the decompression phase that generally lasts 10-15 minutes. During decompression, patients will experience a popping sensation on the ears as a result of the changing (decreasing) pressure.
Does The Pressure Cause Any Discomfort?
Hyperbaric treatments are painless, but patients may experience a sensation of fullness in the ears, similar to what is felt while driving in the mountains, or flying in an airplane. This feeling occurs as the eardrums respond to the change in pressure being exerted on them. The hyperbaric oxygen specialist will show patients how to relieve this fullness to avoid discomfort during treatment.
Are There Any After Effects?
Generally, patients will experience no after effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Some patients have reported a crackling sensation in their ears between treatments that can be relieved in the same manner as during decompression. If the crackling should continue, patients should report this to the hyperbaric oxygen specialists.
Some patients feel light-headed immediately following treatment. If this happens, it will last only a few moments, allowing the patient to continue with their normal daily activities.
On rare occasions, patients undergoing a high number of hyperbaric oxygen treatments can develop temporary changes in eyesight. Studies have shown that any altered vision is generally of short duration and will return to its pretreatment status within several months after finishing hyperbaric therapy.
As with all medical procedures, a member of our team will discuss the rare effects that may result from exposure to hyperbaric oxygen before patients sign the consent for treatment.
How Many Treatments Are Necessary?
The number of treatments necessary depends on each patient and the complication being treated. Some emergency conditions will require only one or two treatments. In most cases of wound healing support, the effects are gradual and 20-40 treatments may be required. The exact number of treatments will be determined by the patient's response to the therapy.