Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, also called HBOT or Hyperbarics, is a state-of-the-art therapy used to treat many problems. It works by boosting the amount of oxygen in your blood. Our bodies need oxygen to live. Oxygen is carried in our blood to all the different tissues, or parts of our bodies. When there is not enough oxygen in the blood, tissue (and sooner or later our body) can die. Oxygen is especially important when our bodies need to heal injured tissue. Healing calls for a lot of oxygen. Usually, our bodies can handle healing just fine with the oxygen we provide on our own. Sometimes though, the injury is too serious for our bodies to handle alone. That’s where Hyperbarics comes in.
When a patient uses Hyperbarics, they go into a special chamber, or area, that can be totally sealed off to outside air. Once the chamber is air-tight, the pressure of the air in the chamber is slowly raised. This allows your lungs to take in much more oxygen than they could normally. The extra oxygen is used by your body to heal tissue and fight infections.
Patients do not have to be staying at the hospital to have Hyperbaric therapy. Most patients come for the therapy and then go home – just like any other appointment. Patients can sleep, listen to music or watch movies during the treatment – all while a team of highly trained experts closely monitor patient care and safety.
Hyperbaric oxygen has been shown to do several things, including:
- Trigger growth of small blood vessels in oxygen-starved tissue to boost wound healing
- High levels of oxygen can help damaged cells to heal more quickly
- HBOT can spark the growth of new bone cells in bones that have been damaged
- High levels of oxygen can kill certain kinds of bacteria
- Improve the body’s natural ability to fight infection and clean wounds
- Boosts the levels of certain chemicals in the body that reduce swelling in and around wounds
- Helps any gas bubbles trapped in the body to shrink and be absorbed more easily
- Increase in the body’s production of special cells (stem cells) that may help repair and rebuild damaged tissues
Hyperbarics has been accepted and approved as an ideal treatment for the following conditions:
- Air or Gas Embolism (AEG)
- A problem where air is forced into the blood stream. HBOT helps by keeping making the size of air bubbles smaller. When the bubbles are smaller, your body safely absorb the air.
- Acute Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
- CO (Carbon Monoxide) poisoning (and/or cyanide poisoning from fires) happens when deadly fumes are inhaled in a place without enough healthy air. HBOT helps by forcing the deadly gasses (CO or cyanide) out of the blood and replacing them with oxygen.
- Gas Gangrene (Clostridial Myositis and Myonecrosis)
- HBOT helps with Gas Gangrene killing the bacteria causing the gangrene. These bacteria cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. Because hyperbarics boosts the levels of oxygen in the body so much, the bacteria die. This in turn helps to prevent further loss of tissue. Starting treatment as soon as possible is important.
- Certain Traumatic Injuries (Crush Injury, Compartment Syndrome, Severed Limb or Body Part)
- HBOT helps lower swelling and gives oxygen to tissues that are seriously lacking oxygen due to injury. It is important to identify and treat these conditions quickly to prevent long term problems including muscle and nerve death, or amputation.
- Decompression Sickness (DCS)
- HBOT helps by making the air bubbles that develop in the blood stream and tissues while scuba diving smaller in size. Getting evaluated and treated as soon as symptoms occur is important. Symptoms range from mild skin rash with joint aches and pains, to paralysis, confusion and lack of mental awareness.
- Acute Peripheral Arterial Insufficiencies
- Well known as blood clots in the arms, legs or eyes. Central Retinal Arterial Occlusion, and other select problem skin injuries, may benefit from HBOT by giving oxygen to tissues that have a sudden loss of oxygen. Some problems are time sensitive and need rapid medical treatment.
- Flesh-eating bacteria (Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections)
- Within select infections some bacteria grow in low-oxygen areas. HBOT stops select bacteria from growing, spreading, and releasing bad waste material, which will help to stop more harm of tissue. Early start of HBOT is important.
- Chronic Osteomyelitis (Infection in the bone)
- HBOT helps to boost the role of antibiotics by increasing the body’s natural power to stop bacteria growth and move this medication deeper into bones to better fight infection.
- Acute Traumatic Peripheral Ischemia
- HBOT helps lower swelling and gives oxygen to tissues that do not have oxygen because of injury. It is important to start evaluation and treatment to prevent long term problems including muscle and nerve death.
- Osteoradionecrosis (ORN)
- HBOT helps increase tissue oxygen and encourage the growth of blood vessels that were broken as a result of radiation treatments. This helps to stop more harm to the bone.
- Soft Tissue Radionecrosis
- HBOT helps to improve tissue oxygen to open skin areas and encourages growth of blood vessels that were ruined from radiation treatments. These injured areas are found in bladder, intestine or on the skin surface.
- Compromised Grafts and Flaps
- HBOT is used after certain surgeries to correct severe tissue loss or to cover muscle or bone. HBOT helps by giving oxygen to the area with poor tissue oxygen and boosts the growth of the small blood vessels that feed the skin.
- Diabetic foot ulcers
- HBOT helps with diabetic foot ulcers in many ways. HBOT helps to stop bacteria growth, strengthens natural defenses, encourages new blood vessel and tissue growth and controls tissue swelling. HBOT can also increase the role of infection fighting medications.
- When surgery or infection fighting medications have not helped, HBOT is added to increase the body’s natural ability to fight infection and the ability of antibiotics to reach infected tissues. HBOT will slow bacteria growth and in some cases kill bacteria.
Weaver, L. K. (Ed.). (2014). UHMS Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Indications (13th ed.). North Palm Beach, Florida: Best Publishing Company.
A transcutaneous oxygen measurement (TCOM) checks the oxygen level of tissue under the skin. This measurement is a useful test for deciding if injured tissue would benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
The test is painless. The test is 45 minutes long. The person being tested will be lying down in a bed. Buttons that are attached to a wire are placed on the skin around the injured area. The TCOM equipment used at EIRMC has 8 different buttons for use on areas of the skin. The test is completed with the person breathing air and again with the person breathing oxygen through a mask that covers the nose and mouth. The doctor will read the answers of the test. If there is an increase in the oxygen reading while breathing through the mask, hyperbarics could help heal the injured area.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works by boosting the amount of oxygen carried in the blood. A higher number from the TCOM means that the vessels around the area of injury are able to deliver enough oxygen-filled blood to the injured area. If this happens, healing should take place. Lower numbers from the TCOM mean that the reason for injured area concerns is because of other things such as; poor nutrition, smoking, high blood sugar, need to change wound care treatment or a difficult blood flow issue.