Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in a state-of-the-art monoplace chamber is a medical treatment during which the entire body is placed in a transparent, airtight chamber at increased atmospheric pressure.
“Hyper” means increased and “baric” relates to pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) thus refers to intermittent treatment of the entire body with 100-percent oxygen at greater than normal atmospheric pressures. The earth’s atmosphere normally exerts approximately 15 pounds per square inch of pressure at sea level. That pressure is defined as one atmosphere absolute (abbreviated as 1 ATA). In the ambient atmosphere we normally breathe approximately 20 percent oxygen and 80 percent nitrogen. While undergoing HBOT, pressure is increased up to two times (2 ATA) in 100% oxygen. In the Sechrist monoplace chambers utilized at our facilities, the entire body is totally immersed in 100-percent oxygen. There is no need to wear a mask or hood. This increased pressure, combined with an increase in oxygen to 100 percent, dissolves oxygen in the blood plasma and in all body cells, tissues and fluids at up to 10 times normal concentration—high enough to sustain life with no blood at all (from 20% to 100% oxygen is a 5-fold increase, from 1 ATA to 2 ATA can double this again to a 10-fold or 1,000% increase).
While some of the mechanisms of action of HBOT, as they apply to healing and reversal of symptoms, are yet to be discovered, it is known that HBOT:
1) greatly increases oxygen concentration in all body tissues, even with reduced or blocked blood flow;
2) stimulates the growth of new blood vessels to locations with reduced circulation, improving blood flow to areas with arterial blockage;
3) causes a rebound arterial dilation after HBOT, resulting in an increased blood vessel diameter greater than when therapy began, improving blood flow to compromised organs;
4) stimulates an adaptive increase in superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of the body’s principal, internally produced antioxidants and free radical scavengers; and,
5) aids the treatment of infection by enhancing white blood cell action and potentiating germ-killing antibiotics.
HBOT has only lately begun to gain recognition for treatment of chronic degenerative health problems related to atherosclerosis, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, diabetic ulcers, wound healing, cerebral palsy, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, and many other disorders .
Wherever blood flow and oxygen delivery to vital organs is reduced, function and healing can potentially be aided with HBOT. When the brain is injured by stroke, trauma, HBO may wake up stunned parts of the brain to restore function.
DOES THE INCREASED PRESSURE CAUSE DISCOMFORT?
Hyperbaric treatments are painless, but the patient may experience a sensation of “fullness” in the ears, similar to driving down a mountain, flying, or scuba diving. The “full” feeling occurs as the eardrums respond to the change in pressure. The HBOT technician demonstrates how to relieve this fullness before treatment.
ARE THERE ANY NEGATIVE AFTER EFFECTS?
Generally patients experience no negative after effects from HBOT. However, some patients report a “cracking” sensation in their ears between treatments as oxygen behind the eardrums is absorbed into the blood stream. This can be relieved in the same manner as clearing the ears during compression and decompression. Also, some patients report feeling light-headed for a few minutes immediately following a treatment, but this is brief, and they are quickly able to continue with their normal daily activities such as working or driving.
As with all medical procedures and treatments, some potential after effects may result from exposure to hyperbaric oxygen. These are rare, but will be discussed in detail by the doctor and HBO technician before treatment.
WHAT ARE SOME PREPARATIONS BEFORE HBO THERAPY?
MEDICATIONS: Some medications are not compatible with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The HBO technician will obtain a complete drug history before treatment. Each drug taken will be considered individually in relation to HBOT, and should changes be indicated, the prescribing doctor will be advised.
Some commonly used medications may potentiate side effects from HBOT. They must be limited or substituted with another drug. These include: high doses of aspirin and prednisone (or similar cortisone type drugs), and morphine, or alcohol within 8 hours of treatment.
Special precautions also are required for HBOT patients who are taking insulin, pain medication, tranquilizers, high doses of prednisone, other corticosteroids and anticoagulants.
Patients will be instructed to take a regimen of high potency nutritional supplements containing vitamin E and other antioxidants during a course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
COLDS AND OTHER SYMPTOMS: It is important to notify the HBO technician should symptoms occur of a cold or the flu, fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, cold sore, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or a generalized ache-all-over feeling. Those types of illnesses are not helped by oxygen, so the HBO treatments may need to be postponed until symptoms have subsided and the doctor allows resumption of HBOT.
SMOKING: Nicotine is another substance that is not compatible with HBOT. Once HBOT has been prescribed, patients should stop the use of tobacco in any form until therapy is complete. This “no smoking” rule applies to cigarettes, pipe tobacco, and cigars, as well as chewing tobacco and snuff. If a person just cannot stop the use of tobacco, HBOT will not be as effective.
COSMETICS: Cosmetics, hair spray, nail polish, perfume, or shaving lotion containing a petroleum, alcohol or oil base are not allowed while in the HBO chamber. However, those products may be reapplied after each treatment. It is important to discuss all skin care products with the HBO technician so they may assure safety.
CLOTHING: Patients are provided with 100-percent cotton gowns to wear during treatment. No articles containing nylon or polyester can be worn in the chamber. Watches and other jewelry, dentures, contact lenses and other prosthetic devices will also need to be removed before treatment. It is also important that cleanliness be maintained during the course of treatment.
SCHEDULING: The HBO technician will usually schedule treatments on a daily basis. Every effort will be made to consider personal schedules and other activities of daily living. There may be times when HBOT appointment must be cancelled or postponed due to emergency situations. If, on the other hand, it is not possible to keep an appointment, the clinic should be notified as soon a possible.