What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)?
It is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s natural healing ability and strengthens the body’s immune system. It is commonly referred to as oxygen therapy or by its acronym H.B.O.T. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves the breathing of pure oxygen while in a sealed chamber that has been pressurized at 1-1/2 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved HBOT to treat more than a dozen health problems such as decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, brain abscess, and injuries in which tissues are not getting enough oxygen.
How does it work?
By dramatically increasing the oxygen content level in blood and compromised tissue, HBOT provides the ideal environment to promote the growth of new blood vessels and skin, a cornerstone of wound healing. It’s a thoroughly tested, completely safe and painless therapy that has helped thousands of patients worldwide heal faster and better than ever before.
HBOT consists of a clear plastic tube about seven feet long. The patient lies on a padded table that slides into the tube. The chamber is gradually pressurized with pure oxygen. Patients are asked to relax and breathe normally during treatment. Chamber pressures typically rise to 2.5 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Patients may experience ear popping or mild discomfort, which usually fades if the pressure is lowered a bit. At the end of the session, which can last from thirty minutes to two hours, technicians slowly depressurize the chamber.
**Medicare, Medicaid, and most health insurance policies cover medically approved uses of HBOT.
What type of wounds warrant use of oxygen therapy?
- Actinomycosis (Infection)
Actinomycosis is a chronic infection, commonly of the face and neck, that produces abscesses and open-draining sinuses. Actinomycosis is usually caused by an anaerobic (disliking oxygen) bacterium called Actinomyces israelii. This is a common and normally non-disease-causing organism found in the nose and throat. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works well to kill the anaerobic bacterium.
Acute Carbon Monoxide Intoxication
Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin more than 200 times more readily than oxygen. When someone suffers from carbon monoxide poisoning, their blood can’t carry enough oxygen because it is displaced by carbon dioxide. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can flush the carbon monoxide from the body and restore oxygen flow to the areas that need it.
Chronic Refractory Osteomyelitis
Refractory osteomyelitis is a chronic bone infection that has persisted or recurred after appropriate interventions or acute osteomyelitis that has not responded to accepted management techniques.
Crush Injuries and Acute Traumatic Ischemia
When there is a severe injury to a limb and the circulation of the extremity becomes compromised, portions of or the entire extremity may be at risk of amputation. Prompt hyperbaric oxygen therapy can reduce swelling to the area, oxygenate the injured extremity and shorten overall recovery time.
Cyanide can inhibit the bloods ability to carry oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy dissolves oxygen into the bloodstream, thereby reducing the effects of the poison.
A SCUBA diver can suffer from decompression illness if the extra nitrogen that is dissolved in his or her body comes out of solution and forms bubbles in the body. Hyperbaric oxygen can force the trouble-causing bubbles back into solution and help the injured diver heal.
Some diabetic wounds may respond well to hyperbaric oxygen and may be treatable, if they meet specific criteria. This criteria will be outlined for you at your visit, or call the wound care facility directly.
If a gas bubble is introduced into the bloodstream it could find its way into the brain and produce stroke-like symptoms. Prompt hyperbaric oxygen therapy can force the gas embolism back into solution and oxygenate any areas that were deprived of oxygen.
Progressive Necrotizing Infections
Necrotizing infections are an extreme emergency that must be treated immediately. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used as to support surgical and antibiotic treatment.
Preservation of Compromised Skin Grafts
Hyperbaric oxygen can help maximize the viability of the compromised tissue thereby reducing the need for re-grafting or repeat procedures.
Radiation Tissue Damage
After radiation treatment for malignancy, a small percentage of patients develop soft tissue or bone necrosis. Some damage is progressive and may present well after the radiation treatments are done. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy must be part of an overall treatment plan in close coordination with the appropriate specialist.
**The white board animation below will help you learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy in how it works and what you will experience. Click the player below to start your learning experience.