Hyperbaric Oxygen ChamberHyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is a treatment in which the patient breathes 100% 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.

The course of treatment varies by diagnosis, but 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.

Healing Benefits

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

Conditions Treated

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is beneficial for diabetic patients with difficult non-healing ulcers, those with arterial ulcers, as well as other types of wounds and conditions that fail to respond to conservative therapy.

Medicare-approved conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:

  • Diabetic wounds
  • Actinomycosis
  • Air embolism
  • Compromised skin graft and flaps, and sutured limbs
  • Decompression sickness (the bends)
  • Gas gangrene and other Necrotizing skin infections
  • Chronic bone infection (chronic refractory osteomyelitis)
  • Crush injuries
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Injury to skin or bone as a side effect from radiation therapy:
    • Osteoradionecrosis of the mandible
    • Radiation Cystitis (bladder injury often resulting in bleeding)
    • Radiation Colitis (Intestinal injury often resulting in bleeding)
    • Soft tissue radionecrosis (nonhealing skin changes)
  • Sudden sensorineural hearing loss
  • Central retinal artery occlusion

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and How Does It Work?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber TechnologyThe 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% 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 are free to read, talk, rest or listen to music.

What You Should Know

  • You will be evaluated by our staff before and after your therapy.
  • Only 100% 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.

Safety Precautions

Because hyperbaric chambers utilize 100% oxygen certain potentially flammable items are prohibited from 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.

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