Originally developed to help deep-sea divers overcome decompression sickness, also called “the bends,” hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used today to accelerate the healing of wounds that are slow to close on their own. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also used to help fight certain types of infections and to treat conditions ranging from cyanide or carbon monoxide poisoning to radiation injuries.
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Works
Cells within the body rely on oxygen to remain healthy and function normally. Oxygen provides vital nutrients and energy to those cells, without which the cells would be disabled. When a body’s cells are disabled, the tissue is malnourished, which delays or prevents the healing process.
Injury, poisoning or disease can disrupt oxygen delivery to the cells, depriving bones and soft tissue of their required oxygen — resulting in compromised health, risk of long-term medical complications, and even death. For individuals suffering from these conditions, normal air and atmospheric pressure is not enough to deliver oxygen to the deprived cells.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers 100 percent oxygen under pressure to the cells. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients breathe pure oxygen while in a hyperbaric chamber in which the atmospheric pressure is increased up to three times the normal pressure.
The combination of increased pressure and oxygen in high concentration results in a great amount of oxygen being dissolved into the cells (10 to15 times the normal amount). The increased oxygen levels in the cells and tissue stimulate the healing process —increasing the ability to fight infection, decreasing swelling and aiding in the growth of new blood vessels. These benefits cannot be achieved by breathing normal amounts of oxygen under normal atmospheric pressure for individuals dealing with compromised health situations.
The Treatment Experience
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is painless. In fact, most patients watch television or sleep during their treatments. A certified hyperbaric technologist (CHT) monitors the treatment at all times and a physician is always nearby. During treatment, patients are made comfortable inside the hyperbaric chamber. The CHT slowly increases the air pressure. During pressure changes, when the atmospheric pressure is increased at the beginning of treatment and decreased at the end of treatment, patients may experience the same sensation as if changing altitude in an airplane. The CHT helps patients to equalize the pressure between their ears, if necessary.
Most patients require treatment over the course of several weeks to effectively treat wounds.
Conditions Treated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recognized as a highly effective medical treatment by many medical specialties, including orthopaedic surgery, surgery, oncology, plastic surgery, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), oral-maxillofacial surgery, wound care, infectious disease and podiatry. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is used to treat:
- Acute peripheral arterial insufficiency.
- Acute traumatic peripheral ischemia.
- Bone infections (osteomyelitis).
- Carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Chronic refractory osteomyelitis.
- Compromised skin or muscle grafts/flaps.
- Crush injuries.
- Cyanide poisoning.
- Decompression illness.
- Diabetic wounds of lower extremities (i.e. diabetic foot ulcers).
- Gas embolism.
- Necrotizing infections.
- Postoperative infections.
- Radiation burns.
- Skin lacerations and tears.
- Slow healing or non-healing surgical wounds.
- Soft tissue radionecrosis.
- Venous stasis, lower leg and arterial (ischemic) ulcers.
Our team will then provide patients with an individualized treatment plan, specifically designed for their wound healing needs. Each treatment plan may include:
- Wound cultures, to determine if infections are present.
- X-rays, to determine if bone infections are present.
- CT scan or MRI, to determine if abscesses are present.
- Ultrasounds, to assess blood flow.
- Blood glucose and glycol-hemoglobin tests.
- Complete blood count, to determine if there is evidence of infection.
For more information please contact us.