Simply put, Hyperbaric Medicine refers to a type of medicine which incorporates an ambient pressure greater than sea level atmospheric pressure in treatments. In particular, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a non-invasive treatment that is given to patients by delivering 100% oxygen at pressures higher than two to three times the typical atmospheric (sea level) pressure to in a chamber. Acting like a drug, the oxygen then elicits a variety of levels of response at varying dosages. Moreover, it has been proven to provide patients with an array of physiologic effects (including hyperoxygenation of tissues, which allows oxygen delivery to tissues with decreased blood flow or low hemoglobin).
Benefits of Hyperbaric Therapy
As many are now well aware, your body’s tissues need a sufficient amount of oxygen in order to function properly. Furthermore, when these tissues become injured, they require even more oxygen in order to be repaired and return to normal functioning. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy helps to repair injured tissues by increasing the amount of oxygen the blood is able to carry. Thusly, the increased level of oxygen allows the levels of blood gasses to be temporarily restored to normal. This ultimately helps to both improve functioning and fight infection. Furthermore, this treatment can be used to help fight off the following ailments:
- Anemia, severe
- Vision loss
- Brain abscess
- Bubbles of air in your blood vessels (arterial gas embolism)
- Decompression sickness
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Deafness, sudden
- Infection of skin or bone causing tissue death
- Nonhealing wounds
- Injury caused by Radiation
- And much more
What to Expect at Your Appointment
Typically administered in an acrylic monoplace chamber, the patient is placed in the chamber in order to breathe in the 100% oxygen with as well as increased atmospheric pressure. While there is very little sensation felt throughout the process, patients are typically subjected to a feeling of fullness in the ears akin to the pressure experienced when flying on a plane. However, the staff will be there to help you quell this feeling of fullness and to make the process more comfortable.
When the treatment has commenced, you will hear a hissing noise as the hyperbaric chamber fills with oxygen and pressure. This may also cause a temporary increase in temperature. Either way, a member of the staff will be there to assist you and adjust the pressure to your particular tolerance level. The compression portion typically takes just 10-15 minutes to complete and can actually be relaxing and even therapeutic for some patients. With the ability to watch TV, listen to music, meditate, sleep, or just allow your mind to wander, the treatment process is essentially a 10-15 minute break in which you focus on allowing your body to repair itself.
On the whole, most patients experience little to no side effects following their treatments. However, much like the sensation most experience following flying in a plane, many patients report a crackling sensation in their ears in between treatments. Furthermore, some patients expereince light-headedness, which typically subsibes within minutes after treatment.
Overall, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a revolutionary treatment that can serve to treat an array of ailments. By allowing the blood to carry more oxygen, this method of medicine is essentially a procedure that enables the body to heal itself. Although there are mild side effects, they are outweighed by the array of potential benefits. Therefore, this treatment may one day replace an array of procedures and medications within the field of medicine.