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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

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During hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) a patient is placed in a special chamber where the oxygen pressure is between 2 and 2½ times that of normal atmospheric pressure.  This increases the level of oxygen in the person's blood, resulting in an increase in the actual oxygen that reaches the tissues.

HBOT was originally developed for disorders caused by diving as it can correct gas bubbles that have formed in the tissues due to diving.  Following its development it was discovered that there were a variety of other possible benefits. For example, wound healing greatly increased with HBOT.  Additional conditions HBOT is used for include decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, gas embolism, burns, osteomyelitis, necrotizing soft tissue infections, radiation burns, and skin grafts.  There are currently pressure chambers that can be used in a medical facility that offers HBOT or at home in specific portable chambers.  

Some possible side effects of HBOT are seizure from oxygen toxicity from prolonged breathing of high-pressure oxygen, swelling of the eye's lens causing vision changes, and barotraumas to tissues surrounding air trapped in the body.  Additional complications associated with HBOT are fever, in ability to clear the ear or sinuses and grand mal seizures.  HBOT is contraindicated in untreated pneumothorax.

Several double-blind controlled studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals supporting the effectiveness of HBOT.  United States Medicare recognizes 14 conditions as treatable by HBOT — primarily due to this research.  A wide range of other conditions are said to be treatable by HBOT, however little evidence is currently available to support these claims.

Author: Bronwyn Bacon, ND Candidate '09


MH Bennett, J Wasiak, A Schnabel, P Kranke, C French, "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Acute Ischaemic Stroke," The Cochrane Methodology abstracts.

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