What is HBOT?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which enhances the body's natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide variety of treatments usually as a part of an overall medical care plan.
Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells. With HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into all of the body's fluids, the plasma, the central nervous system fluids, the lymph, and the bone and can be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked. In this way, extra oxygen can reach all of the damaged tissues and the body can support its own healing process. The increased oxygen greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas. It is a simple, non-invasive and painless treatment.
What are the benefits of HBOT?
It has long been known that healing many areas of the body cannot take place without appropriate oxygen levels in the tissue. Most illnesses and injuries occur, and often linger, at the cellular or tissue level. In many cases, such as: circulatory problems; non-healing wounds; and strokes, adequate oxygen cannot reach the damaged area and the body's natural healing ability is unable to function properly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves the quality of life of the patient in many areas when standard medicine is not working. Many conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, head injuries, and chronic fatigue have responded favorably to HBOT.
What conditions does HBOT treat?
Hyperbaric oxygen is used to treat all conditions which benefit from increased tissue oxygen availability, as well as infections where it can be used for its antibiotic properties, either as the primary therapy, or in conjunction with other drugs.
The following conditions are medically recognized conditions that benefit from HBOT:
Air or Gas Embolism
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Compartment Syndrome/Crush Injury/Other Traumatic Ischemias
Decompression Sickness (Bends)
Diabetic and Selected Wounds
Exceptional Blood Loss (Anemia)
Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infection
Osteoradionecrosis and Radiation Tissue Damage
Skin Grafts and (Compromised) Flaps
The following conditions are anecdotally experienced as benefitting from HBOT but not yet recognized by the medical establishment:
Recovery from Plastic Surgery
Traumatic Brain Injury
Are there any side effects?
The most common side effect is barotrauma to the ears and sinuses caused by the change in pressure. To minimize this risk, patients learn techniques to promote adequate clearing of the ears during compression or tubes may be inserted in the ears. Occasionally some patients may experience changes in their vision during their treatment period. These changes are usually minor and temporary. A rare side effect is oxygen toxicity which is caused by administering too much oxygen.
How does hyperbaric oxygen help brain injury or stroke?
When cells in the brain die, either from trauma or lack of oxygen, blood plasma leaks out into surrounding brain tissue causing swelling and reducing blood flow. These otherwise normal cells go dormant because they can't function without the appropriate amount of oxygen. HBOT dramatically increases the oxygen carried in the blood plasma, making oxygen available to heal damaged capillary walls, preventing plasma leakage and reducing swelling. As the swelling decreases, blood flow can be restored to the dormant tissue (neovascularization) and these cells then have the potential to function again.
How does hyperbaric oxygen help a child with cerebral palsy (CP) or traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
In CP and TBI patients, some of the injured brain tissues may be "dormant" and non-functioning. HBOT can stimulate these "dormant" tissues and return them to more normal function. In young children, cognitive function and spasticity can be improved.