Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO) is a medical procedure that involves the patient being placed in a completely enclosed chamber in which the atmosphere is controlled and the patient is able to breathe pure 100 percent oxygen. This level exceeds atmospheric pressure. The hyperbaric process places oxygen in places within the body at a cellular level, and also where the circulation might be blocked. HBO therapy is not painful and it is not an invasive procedure. HBO therapy is used in conjunction with other medical treatments as part of a patient’s treatment plan.
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy works
Oxygen is normally carried by the red blood cells only, but when HBO therapy is administered, the oxygen reaches all of the body’s fluids and therefore the oxygen is delivered to places in the body that are in need of the extra oxygen. This assists the body in natural healing. Some of the benefits of HBO therapy are the aiding of white blood cells in fighting bacteria and reduction of tissue swelling, which allows new blood vessels to grow in affected areas more efficiently.
What Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is used for
Individuals who have suffered a brain injury due to stroke or cerebral palsy have been known to benefit from HBO therapy treatments. Other conditions that HBO therapy can be used for include: carbon monoxide poisoning, certain types of burns, skin infections, chronic fatigue, heart attack, and near drowning, as well as many other conditions.
Acute conditions that HBO therapy can be used to treat – such as decompression illness, carbon monoxide poisoning and etc. – are accomplished by stopping the swelling, tissue damage, and infection. If the treatment is performed in time, the patient’s life and affected limb(s) can be saved. Patients with chronic conditions – such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic bone infections, non-healing, radiation wounds, etc. – are sometimes given HBO therapy. New growth is stimulated in areas of the body that are damaged because HBO therapy causes the release of hormones which are responsible for growth and repair. Healing is also promoted by HBO therapy causing tiny new blood vessels to grow.
Brain injury and the use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Individuals who have sustained an injury to the brain (known as traumatic brain injury or TBI) have been known to have improved functioning as a result of HBO therapy. Brain injury can be a result of cerebral palsy, a motor vehicle accident, and/or a stroke, among other causes. When a brain injury occurs, there is normally tissue that is permanently and irreversibly damaged, but there can also be areas around the permanently damaged tissues that are referred to as dormant. Decreased oxygen to these dormant areas can result from a decreased flow of blood. Decreased blood flow can cause tissue swelling in these areas. The goal of HBO therapy is to rejuvenate these brain cells by oxygenating them, which in turn should increase the bodily functions lost as a result of this brain area’s dormancy.
The Spect Scan
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (or SPECT) is a test in which a scan of the brain indicates which areas of the brain are damaged beyond repair, which parts are working normally, and which ones are simply in a dormant state. A baseline scan can be done prior to HBO therapy and then other scans after the treatment can establish the effectiveness of the therapy in rejuvenation of dormant areas.
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is performed
HBO therapy is performed with the patient in an enclosed chamber. Monoplace chambers are for use with one patient while multiplace chambers can deliver this therapy to several individuals at one time. In multiplace chambers, the oxygen is given through a mask or a hood. The first few minutes of therapy can be expected to be noisy. Patients are allowed to relax, listen to music and, in some cases, watch movies during the therapy.
Side effects of this therapy can include barotraumas to the ears and sinus. These are a result of the environmental pressure changes and amount to the inability to equalize the pressure in the middle ears while the pressure in the chamber increases. A similar sensation occurs when individuals are in flight and the airplane is descending. There are simple techniques that medical professionals can instruct the patient to perform to alleviate these symptoms. Near-sightedness can also be a temporary side effect, but normally is no longer an issue within a couple of months after therapy is discontinued. The duration and amount of treatments usually depends on the condition it is being used for.
HBO therapy is a treatment that has been utilized with increasing popularity in the last 50 years. It is a simple and non-invasive treatment that is often covered under insurance and can improve the health and functioning of individuals with certain conditions as well as save lives.