Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Overview

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for decades to treat chronic wounds and other medical conditions, including severe anemia (low iron in the blood) and carbon monoxide poisoning. This therapy provides you with air that contains 100 percent oxygen. (Room air contains 21 percent oxygen.) You’ll have hyperbaric oxygen therapy inside a special pressurized chamber, allowing your lungs to absorb greater amounts of oxygen as you breathe.

Doctors use hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone or with other medical treatments, such as medications or surgery. Most people receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy on an outpatient basis for 1 to 2 hours each session. Depending on the type of treatment chamber, you may sit or lie down during the procedure.

Hyperbaric therapy is generally safe. Risks include middle ear injuries, temporary nearsightedness and increased sinus congestion and pressure.

Procedure Details

How is hyperbaric oxygen therapy done?

Before receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy, ask your doctor about continuing to use skin care products and medications. You’ll leave metal objects and electronics outside the hyperbaric chamber. These objects could create sparks, which could cause a fire in the high-oxygen environment.

During the procedure, you sit or lie in a special chamber. Some hyperbaric chambers are only designed for one person. You’ll lie on a table that slides into the hyperbaric chamber, where you’ll continue lying while receiving treatment.

Your healthcare facility may have a hyperbaric chamber designed for use by multiple people at once. If this is the case, you will receive your oxygen treatment through a specialized mask. In some facilities, you’ll wear a lightweight, see-through oxygen hood.

With each type of chamber, you breathe as usual. Medical staff monitors your condition throughout your treatment session. Sessions usually last between 1 and 2 hours. You’ll repeat treatment daily or weekly for up to 30 sessions. You’ll continue other medical treatment recommended by your doctor, such as visiting a wound clinic for wound care.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits and risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Many people benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, especially those living with chronic wounds. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help tissue heal through the growth of new skin, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally considered safe. While rare, risks of the procedure include:

  • Middle ear injuries
  • Sinus congestion and pressure
  • Temporary nearsightedness
  • Claustrophobia
  • Oxygen poisoning
  • Seizures

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn’t right for every person. Your doctor may recommend another treatment if you have certain medical conditions, including some types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), respiratory infections, or cataracts.

Recovery and Outlook

What is the recovery and outlook for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

You can return to your usual daily activities immediately following a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session. Most people see benefits from this therapy after several sessions. It’s important to continue your full course of treatment and stay in touch with your healthcare team. Frequent monitoring enables you and your providers to identify potential complications earlier.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my doctor about hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

If you have a chronic wound or other medical condition that might benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, such as severe anemia, contact your doctor to explore this treatment. Your doctor will help you determine whether this procedure is right for you.

If you have hyperbaric oxygen therapy and have trouble breathing, call your doctor or go to your local emergency department immediately. Breathing difficulties may indicate serious complications including embolisms (a clot or air bubble in your blood vessel), which are medical emergencies.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/05/2018.

References

  • Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society.. Accessed 6/20/2018. Indications for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (https://www.uhms.org/resources/hbo-indications.html)
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Accessed 6/20/2018.Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for chronic wounds. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004123.pub4/full)
  • Advances in Wound Care. Accessed 6/20/2018.Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Side Effects Defined and Quantified. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5467109/)

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