Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is a treatment in which the patient breathes 100 percent pure oxygen while inside a pressurized chamber. The air pressure inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This “hyperbaric” (or high pressure) dose of oxygen helps your blood carry more oxygen to your organs and tissues to promote wound healing. It also activates the white blood cells to fight infection.
Patients typically receive HBO therapy five days a week for approximately four to six weeks. One treatment takes about two hours and is quite comfortable for most patients.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is approved to treat the following conditions:
- Non-healing wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers
- Chronic bone infection (chronic refractory osteomyelitis)
- Injury to skin or bone as a side effect from radiation therapy
- Non-healing skin grafts and flaps
- Crush injuries
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Sudden sensorineural hearing loss
- Central retinal artery occlusion
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes healing by increasing the level of oxygen in the tissue and improving the healing efficiency of the white blood cells.
In addition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy:
- Stimulates fibroblasts (collagen formation)
- Stimulates the growth of blood vessels
- Creates vasoconstriction, thus reducing tissue edema
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is beneficial for diabetic patients with difficult non-healing ulcers, as well as those with arterial ulcers and other types of wounds that fail to respond to conservative therapy.
Medicare-approved conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
- Diabetic wounds
- Air embolism
- Compromised skin graft and flaps
- Decompression sickness (the bends)
- Gas gangrene
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Necrotizing infections
- Crush injuries
- Acute peripheral arterial insufficiency
- Radionecrosis (radiation damage from cancer treatments)
- Brown recluse spider bites
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Phases of Hyperbaric Treatment
Treatments are administered daily, Monday through Friday, requiring the patient to be present for approximately two hours each day. The course of treatment varies by diagnosis, but generally includes 20 to 40 therapy sessions.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and How Does it Work?
The word hyperbaric is derived from "hyper," which means over or above, and "baro," which refers to the barometric pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, then, is high-pressure oxygen therapy.
HBO therapy requires that the patient breath 100 percent pure oxygen inside a chamber filled with compressed air. The air pressure inside the chamber can be increased to as much as six times normal atmospheric pressure. The extra pressure increase blood oxygen to many times its normal level. The blood vessels deliver this super-oxygenated blood to tissues throughout the body to help heal, fight infection, decrease swelling (edema), and aid in the growth of new blood vessels (capillaries). These benefits cannot be achieved by breathing normal amounts of oxygen in a regular room.
What is the Hyperbaric Chamber?
Memorial Hermann facilities operate two types of hyperbaric chambers. At the Texas Medical Center, the hyperbaric chamber is a steel cylinder that is approximately six feet in diameter and 34 feet long. The chamber has more than one compartment, or room, and is known as a multiplace chamber, which allows prompt physician access should the need arise. The main room is quite large and can accommodate up to 12 patients as well as a technician or nurse. Patients are able to either sit or recline with only minimal limitations of movement. An inside attendant monitors all patients. A chamber operator, nurse and doctor stand by outside the chamber. A special intercom system allows for constant communication, and windows or ports allow you to see out of the chamber.
At our other facilities we operate monoplace chambers that are clear acrylic single-patient units to deliver hyperbaric oxygen treatments. These chambers are 7.5 feet in internal length and 33 inches in diameter. The chambers are under constant staff supervision allowing un-interrupted communication between the patient and chamber operator.
During a treatment, which usually lasts about two hours, patients in a multiplace chamber are free to read, talk, rest or listen to music. If they are being treated in a monoplace chamber they can rest, watch TV or a movie during treatment.
What You Should Know
- You will be evaluated by our staff before and after your therapy.
- Only 100 percent cotton clothing is allowed in the chamber. Garments will be provided to you.
- Take any prescribed medications as usual (including pain medication) before you arrive, and inform our staff during your evaluation.
- If you have a cold or sinus congestion, please inform our staff upon arrival, as this may determine whether nasal sprays and decongestants are administered.
Because the chamber is pressurized with 100 percent oxygen, certain items cannot go into the chamber. These items include lighters, matches, cigarettes, cell phones, nylon or synthetic fabric, wigs or hairpieces, dentures, make up, petroleum jelly, lipstick, lip balm, ointments, hearing aids, watches, hair spray, hair oil/relaxers, or hard contact lenses.
Should you have any questions, our staff will be happy to discuss them with you before treatment begins.
In general, most health insurance plans and Medicare cover the conditions listed.
For specific questions about insurance coverage, please contact your insurance provider directly.