Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a non-invasive treatment method rendered in a chamber filled with air with high oxygen concentration. This therapy was first introduced in the early 20th century.
In the 1940s, this therapy again recorded massive success by treating deep-sea divers suffering from compression sickness. In the next twenty years, it also emerged as an effective treatment for fighting carbon monoxide poisoning.
While it’s still used widely by scuba divers, firefighters, and miners to combat carbon monoxide poisoning, this therapy has become popular for the treatment of wounds and stimulating our nervous system.
This is a complete guide on what the therapy is, how it is rendered, its benefits, side effects, costs, and other important details.
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment rendered with 100% oxygen concentration in the air. A single session of this therapy can take 1 or 2 hours, and it helps your lungs absorb oxygen in higher quantities.
In this treatment, your blood plasma also receives a higher amount of oxygen. This therapy is very effective as it helps our bodies receive two or three times more oxygen compared to standard rooms where only 21% oxygen is present in the air.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective for wound healing, stimulating brain functions, improving immunity, and many other health conditions.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Before, During And After The Process
We can divide the hyperbaric oxygen therapy period into three stages: before, during, and after therapy. The guidelines should be followed properly in all steps to ensure the safety and efficacy of the therapy.
Before Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
A complete assessment of your health is important before you receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Your doctor will assess your previous health conditions, ongoing medications, and surgical implants. The doctor will only suggest HOBT if your ongoing medications and implants don’t interfere with the therapy.
The doctor will also ask you not to use skincare products just before entering the HBOT chamber as these may become inflammatory in contact with oxygen.
Also, metal and electronic objects are not allowed inside a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. As the session will take 1 to 2 hours, you can visit the restroom before entering the chamber.
During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Your hyperbaric oxygen therapy may happen inside a monoplace or multiplace chamber. In a monoplace chamber, you will remain laid down during the therapy.
In the multiplace chamber, you will receive oxygen through masks or transparent hoods. Once the chamber doors are closed, you will hear a hissing sound, and the experience is very similar to how your ears get clogged inside a flight.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy imparts a very relaxing effect on you. If you receive the therapy in a monoplace chamber, you can spend the time sleeping or listening to music. In a multiplace chamber, you can even play board games or cards.
After Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
As your therapy session heads toward the end, the air’s oxygen pressure will decrease. At the end, your oxygen hood or mask will be removed.
Now, the doctor will check your blood pressure, pulse, and ear conditions. For diabetic patients, blood sugar levels are checked additionally.
If all the basic reports are right, you are asked to change your clothes and leave.
Many patients feel drowsy after the hyperbaric oxygen therapy. So, it is always better to be accompanied by a friend, family member, or driver for safe return.
Are Other Hyperbaric Devices Approved By FDA?
FDA has not approved any other device for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It has approved a large zippered bag to be used as a chamber for the treatment of altitude sickness.
The FDA has not recommended these bags as hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers with oxygen concentrators or tanks. Still, many people are using these for at-home HOBT. But these can invite fire breakouts and many other problems.
Difference Between Regular And Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chambers
Hyperbaric oxygen therapies are offered in soft and hard chambers. These chambers are different in oxygen pressure level and structure.
Hard Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chambers
The hard hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers are steel-enclosed or made of plastic and offer an oxygen concentration of 100%. The pressure level at a hard chamber can be as high as 6 ATA.
What Are The Types Of Hard Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers?
The hard hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers can be of two types. The monoplace chamber is like a plastic tube that accommodates one person at a time. As the person enters the chamber, the pressurized oxygen is filled slowly.
In a multiplace chamber, two or more people can receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the same time. They inhale the pure oxygen through masks of hoods.
Soft Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chambers
The mild or soft hyperbaric oxygen chambers are made of steel frames and polyurethane or canvas. In soft chambers, you will receive an oxygen concentration of less than 30% in air and a maximum of 1.5 ATA.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps our bodies deal with wounds, external aggression, and damage better by providing air filled with 100% oxygen. This therapy has multiple physiological, psychological, and wellness benefits. Let’s have a detailed discussion.
Boosts Functionalities Of Autonomous Nervous Systems And Helps In Neurocognitive Conditions
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often considered a miracle. However, a critical understanding of how it works will help you know why it is so effective for autonomous nervous systems and curing neurocognitive conditions.
When we are in normal conditions, the red blood cells in our bodies carry oxygen. A red blood cell cannot bind to more than four oxygen molecules at a time. So, the flow of oxygen to our blood cells and tissues is limited.
The quantity of oxygen flow can further deteriorate with low fluidity inside the blood vessels or blockages. As a result, our musculoskeletal tissues, nervous system, brain cells, and other vital organs can be deprived of oxygen.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, on the other hand, helps the dissolution of pure oxygen into our plasma to increase oxygen flow to all the cells. As a result, our autonomous nervous system becomes more functional, and factors like fluid dynamics, blood flow, flow of cerebrospinal fluid, and lymphatic flow are improved.
Boosting Energy Levels
With increased oxygen in our blood plasma, each cell in our bodies receives nutrients to produce more ATP. As a result, your energy level is improved.
With the cells receiving the necessary nutrients, the healing or regeneration process also becomes faster.
Alleviates Anxiety, Depression And Stress
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates brain functions. It also promotes greater energy transfer to the pre-fontal cortex and dorsal lateral pre-frontal cortex of our brains. Thanks to better stimulation, these areas or the limbic system in our brain help us manage emotions and fight anxiety, stress, or depression.
As a result, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is seen as an ideal cure for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, etc.
In addition, HBOT helps to change or alter neuroplasticity caused by severe brain injury, trauma, or stroke by boosting brain functions and promoting healing.
Stops Reperfusion Injury
When your cells do not receive enough blood flow, or there is an interrupted blood flow in the damaged cells, those cells produce some harmful radicals. These oxygen radicals can further cause severe injury or damage to tissues, and these damages cannot be cured.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy regulates the elements that fight these oxygen radicals and promote faster healing.
Promotes Wound Healing
If we see the cycle of wound formation and its progress in our bodies, we will find three stages.
- In the first stage, the blood vessels get broken and start leaking fluids.
- These fluids accumulate in the tissues, causing scarcity of oxygen and swelling.
- When these tissues do not receive enough oxygen, they eventually die.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy breaks this chain to ensure the healing of wounds. The oxygen in the hyperbaric chamber maintains an adequate supply of oxygen in the tissues to protect them from dying.
Improves Skin Health
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy causes the generation of new blood vessels. These newly formed blood vessels further boost the formation of new blood cells and collagen. So, the elasticity and strength of your skin’s external layer are improved.
The oxygen your skin absorbs in this therapy again helps cells to produce vascular endothelial growth factor and other essential elements that can make healing faster.
Strengthens Immunity System
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves oxygen production in the tissues. At the same time, it makes the toxins of many bacteria inactive. The HBOT also helps the white blood cells be proactive and fight against disease-causing invaders.
Alleviates Pain And Yields Better Results In Cosmetic Surgeries
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is very effective in healing or coping with pain caused by cosmetic surgery. Especially in cases like hair transplants, this therapy can lessen the number of hair follicle shedding and irritation in the scalp. As a result, if a person avails of hyperbaric oxygen therapy after cosmetic surgery, they will be able to cut down pain medications.
At the same time, it increases collagen production to generate new skin cells and hair follicles. It also reduces redness and inflammation caused by cosmetic treatments like clinical peeling and transplants.
In addition, it will help the skin area where cosmetic surgery is done to receive enough nutrients by stimulating vessels carrying those nutrients. Therefore, the replenishment will be faster.
Promotes Hair Growth
As your body receives 100% oxygen in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, there will be an improvement in collagen production. It will further promote better blood circulation. So, your hair follicles will be stimulated and receive enough support in this therapy.
Overall, if we consider all the cases in which hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used, we can divide the usage into three categories. Have a look at the table below to know the details.
|Type Of Health Condition||Specific Issues|
|Physical health conditions||Osteoporosis, diabetes, anemia, decompression sickness, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, stroke, osteomyelitis, migraines, cerebral palsy|
|Psychological health conditions||Autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, dementia, various neurological disorders|
|Wellness and healing||Wound healing, healing from athletic injuries, healing in cosmetic surgeries, including hair transplant and anti-aging|
What Are The Side Effects Of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapies?
FDA has approved hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers, considering they offer safe and effective treatments. However, the FDA has underlined some complications or risk factors associated with this therapy. Those side effects include:
- Collapsed lungs
- Changes in the vision on a temporary basis
- “Ear and sinus pain”
- Injuries in the middle ear and rupture of the tympanic membrane
FDA also warns patients to avail themselves of this therapy only at accredited facilities with proper safety measures. The high pressure of oxygen can lead to fire breakouts.
Along with the risk factor underlined by the FDA, a patient seeking hyperbaric oxygen treatment may suffer other side effects. These side effects are myopia, seizures caused by oxygen toxicity in the central nervous system, hypoglycemia in diabetic people, sinus congestion, and claustrophobia.
What Is The Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Cost?
The cost of hyperbaric oxygen therapy depends on many factors. The cost of each session is determined by why it is being used, the fees of the clinic and the doctor, and the severity of your health condition.
So, let’s find out how these factors determine the cost of your therapy.
The Reason For Using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is used for many reasons. Some of them are cleared by the FDA, and some are considered off-label treatments.
The on-label treatments or treatments approved by the FDA are
- Decompression sickness
- Tissue damage caused by radiation
- Gas gangrene
- Diabetic foot ulcers or diabetic extremity wounds
- Wounds that are not getting healed
- Toxic smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning
- Soft tissue infection caused/followed by necrosis
- Central retinal artery occlusion
- Formation of air or gas bubbles inside blood vessels
- Severe anemia where blood infusion is not possible
- Large or severe burns that are being treated at a specialized burn care center
- Severe skin and bone infection
- Loss of vision
- Sudden hearing loss without any apparent reason
- Failed skin grafts and flaps, causing tissue death
You will likely get insurance coverage when you use hyperbaric oxygen therapy for any of these reasons. So, your pocket pinch will be less.
However, HBOT is also used for many off-label treatments, and many clinical trials are being run, including the efficacy of this therapy for the treatment of COVID-19. In these off-label treatments, the cost will not be covered by insurance.
Facility And Doctor Offering Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
You can avail yourself of HBOT facilities at hospitals or independent clinics. At the hospital, you will be only offered HBOT if you seek treatments for on-label medical conditions, as discussed. Your insurance company will partially or fully cover these treatments.
However, the overall expenditure will be higher as it happens when you get hospitalized instead of consulting an independent specialist for treatment.
Independent HBOT providers can offer this therapy for on and off-level treatments. You may not get insurance coverage when taking the therapy from an independent practitioner. In such cases, the cost will vary based on the location of the clinic, the pay structure of the clinic, the number of sessions you need, etc.
How Severe Your Health Condition Is
If you are suffering from chronic health conditions or something as critical as “traumatic brain injuries,” the level of your HBOT will be higher than comparatively minor health conditions.
Also, the number of sessions will be more while receiving treatment for a complicated health condition. Thus, the cost will shoot up.
Based on all these factors, your hyperbaric oxygen therapy can cost between $250 to $1170.
Things To Keep In Mind Before Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
If you are about to take hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you will need to keep certain things in mind. Certain medicines or chronic health conditions can interact with this therapy. So, if you already have certain medical conditions or are taking some medication, a consultation with your doctor is mandatory. You will also need to keep certain other things in mind, as mentioned below.
- You must avoid smoking and consuming carbonated beverages and alcohol before and during the hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This therapy becomes more effective when it is done over multiple sessions. You need to follow these guidelines until all the sessions are complete.
Smoking tobacco will interfere with your body’s ability to adequately transfer oxygen.
- Do not use cosmetic products while going for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
You may need single or multiple hyperbaric oxygen therapies based on the severity of your condition and how your body is reacting to the treatment. If your doctor has recommended multiple sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for you, make sure to complete the course and stay in touch with your doctor for constant monitoring.
Usually, the sessions are very relaxing and do not demand long recovery times. However, certain complications may occur based on your medical history. If you notice even the most trivial changes or symptoms in your body after the treatment, you must consult your doctor immediately.
Again, many spas and alternative wellness centers offer hyperbaric oxygen therapies these days. However, this therapy demands high levels of expertise and adequate experience. So, always choose a reputed clinic and a known medical practitioner for this therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Due to increased pressure levels, optimum oxygen dissolution is possible in our bloodstream. The miracle of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is how it makes the plasma carry oxygen to promote faster healing and improve important functionalities in our bodies.
In other words, when the plasma in our bodies carries more oxygen, the functions of our autonomous nervous system are improved. There is also a major improvement in the general fluid dynamics. As a result, with this therapy, your body will experience an increase in blood flow, cerebrospinal fluid flow, and lymphatic flow.
Along with being an effective treatment for many medical conditions, hyperbaric oxygen therapy also promotes recovery from injuries and imparts holistic wellness. So, celebrities like Christiano Ronaldo, Justin Bieber, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps take this therapy.
Yes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe as your body receives 100% oxygen in this treatment, and it bolsters your immunity system to fight harmful bacteria and viruses. Further, it boosts the formation of stem cells, which again promotes the growth of blood, brain, and muscle cells.
This oxygen therapy is also essential for the growth of new skin cells, connective tissues, and blood vessels. And this therapy is always rendered by a skilled and experienced medical practitioner.
So, you can enjoy the hyperbaric chamber benefits without worrying about safety problems.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy hair growth is not a myth, as this treatment can really promote hair growth.
When you are in a hyperbaric chamber, your body will receive 100% oxygen, which boosts the overall oxygen circulation and promotes collagen production. Thus, your hair follicles receive improved support and stimulation in hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Again, studies have proved that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can aid hair transplant surgeries. This stops the shedding of hair follicles and itchiness in the scalp.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a treatment for many medical conditions, is unsuitable for people suffering from lung problems.
If one has a weak or damaged lung, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can cause a collapse of the lungs, severe cold and fever, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Also, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not at all suitable for a person who is currently suffering from hearing loss or has undergone surgery in the ears.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is unsafe in pregnancy and not recommended unless extreme cases like carbon monoxide poisoning happen for a pregnant mother. Even in these extreme cases, the therapy is only recommended when the benefits outweigh the associated risks.
Otherwise, hyperbaric therapies can make the blood vessels around the placenta of a pregnant woman constricted. As a result, there can be a drop in the oxygen level of the fetus, causing fetal hypoxia.
Fetal hypoxia can result in congenital disabilities or the baby’s death during or immediately after the delivery.
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