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What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

“Hyper” means “to increase” and “baric” refers to pressure. Patients are taken into a pressurized chamber large enough to accommodate one adult and one child. Oxygen is inhaled through a cannula. The therapy uses an elevated ambient pressure combined with inspired oxygen concentration to significantly increase blood oxygen levels. The body can then get oxygenated blood to tissues that don’t have enough oxygen at baseline.

How does it work?

In a pressurized hyperbaric chamber, the patient is able to inhale more oxygen than the 21% present in the air we breathe. This increase in oxygen levels can aid in the healing process of injuries and damaged tissues by reducing inflammation and increasing the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body. The pressure in the chamber helps the lungs to collect the extra oxygen so that it can be distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. 

What conditions can be treated? 

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is generally used for foot ulcers caused by diabetes, wounds that are slow to heal from surgeries, and for revitalizing damaged tissues. Other conditions may also be treated, such as burns, skin conditions from acne to eczema, trauma-related depression, and mental distress of many types. This therapy can also promote mental clarity and focus in children and adults, and relief from general daily stress. 

How long can a patient stay in a chamber?

The average treatment time per session is approximately two hours. One to two treatments per week till the patient’s condition improves is standard, but this may vary according to the patient’s specific health concerns.  Patients can listen to music, read, or use a mobile device while in the chamber. 

What should a patient expect during a treatment? 

The patient will enter the inflatable chamber without shoes or any sharp objects. Socks will be provided by the clinic, as well as an optional robe if the patient does not, for any reason, wish to wear their own clothes during their treatment. Once the patient is inside the chamber, they will be provided with a cannula that will be inserted into the nose and connected to the oxygen. Patients can recline or sit up, depending on preference. The attendant will then zip up the chamber and it will inflate and pressurize. 

When the chamber is pressurized, patients may hear a hissing noise. For the first few minutes the patient may feel warm. Much like in an airplane cabin, a patient might feel squeezing in their ears, sinuses and teeth. The best way to relieve pressure in the ears is to yawn, drink water, or adjust the pressure in the chamber with help from the attendant. The cannula provided to you for the procedure is yours to keep and reuse and there will be an additional charge if a replacement is needed. 

Are side effects possible?

The pressure changes may cause some patients ear pain or discomfort. This can occur during and between treatments. If the patient experiences any discomfort, physical or mental, they should notify the attendant immediately. If you have had a recent medical or dental procedure or are scheduled for one in the near future, please notify the attendant prior to your appointment to avoid any unnecessary complications. 

Is there anything else I should know?

In addition to easing the symptoms of many conditions and shortening healing times for many ailments and injuries, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also helpful for those in peak physical condition. Athletes and bodybuilders can improve their recovery time and encourage muscle growth by increasing the flow of oxygenated blood to their tissues. The improved mental clarity many experience as a result of the treatment may also help people experiencing focus issues as a result of conditions such as ADHD and Brain Fog. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is not advisable for those experiencing the following conditions

  • Pregnancy
  • Severe infections
  • Hypertension exceeding 160/100ml
  • Heart conditions requiring a Pacemaker
  • Untreated Pneumothorax
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Severe emphysema
  • Spherocytosis-blood disorder

Additionally, if you take the following medications, this procedure may not be for you

  • Cisplatin-chemo agent
  • Disulfiram-Antabuse 
  • Doxorubicin-Adriamycin 
  • Mafenide Acetate-Sulfamylon 

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Fernando De Guzman

Fernando De Guzman is the social media marketing and content manager for Carpenter Pain Clinic. He worked in consumer and commercial business for more than 5 years, building content, search engine optimization and social marketing programs from the ground up. Fernando has an incurable case of wanderlust and a love for maps and camera. He's often found exploring outdoors, trying new cuisine, or talking about new and nice places.