Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medical treatment for a limited but diverse series of illnesses. It may be the primary treatment for some disorders, but it’s often part of a combined program involving antibiotics and surgery. The patient is placed in a pressurized, see-through chamber, which is pressurized with pure oxygen. This “hyperbaric” (or high pressure) oxygen offers distinct therapeutic benefits.
Our hyperbaric medicine department is staffed by experienced, highly-trained nurses and respiratory therapists. Hyperbaric medicine also has fully-credentialed physicians who are available to answer questions 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?
Oxygen, when delivered to a patient in a hyperbaric chamber, greatly increases the amount of oxygen in the blood that can be delivered to all body tissues. The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are the result of this extra oxygen being carried within the bloodstream. There are no benefits of direct oxygen contact with wounds, so the dressings are usually left in place during the treatment.
Depending upon the reason for your referral to the hyperbaric medicine department, hyperbaric oxygen will be used to provide you with one or more of the following effects:
- Increased oxygen delivery to the injured tissue
- Promote new blood vessel formation
- Improve wound healing
- Improve infection control
- Preserve damaged tissues
- Eliminate toxic substances
- Reduce effects from toxic substances
- Reduce or eliminate tissue and blood obstruction caused by gas bubbles
These effects may occur within one or two treatments. However, it may be necessary to undergo as many as 20-60 treatments for maximum benefit. Your planned treatment course will be discussed in detail prior to starting therapy.
What Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Feel Like?
Hyperbaric oxygen treatments are normally painless. You lie comfortably and restfully in the see-through chamber. You can listen to music, watch TV, or nap if you wish, and feel no differently than if you were lying in your own bed.
You may experience a sensation of fullness in your ears during certain stages of the treatment. This is similar to the feeling when flying in an airplane or driving down a mountain as the eardrums respond to changes in pressure. You will be taught several easy methods to avoid ear discomfort.
Are there side effects?
Generally, patients experience no side effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. However, some patients report pain or a “crackling” in their ears or sinuses between treatments. If the crackling continues, please report this to the care team. Some patients also feel light-headed for a few minutes following a treatment. This is brief and patients are able to continue with their normal daily activities. Rarely patients having hyperbaric oxygen therapy develop temporary changes in eyesight.
Studies have shown in these rare cases that any altered vision is of short duration and will return to its pretreatment status within six to eight weeks after the cessation of treatment. Like all medical treatments and procedures, some risks are associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These risks are quite rare and will be discussed with you before you sign your consent form for therapy.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments varies for each patient. Some emergency treatments will only require one or two treatments. Wound healing problems may require 20-60 treatments.
Treatments may be provided twice a day if you are hospitalized. Outpatients are normally given treatments once a day for five days each week.
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