- HBOT Uses
- What to Expect
- Side Effects
- Complications & Risks
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a type of medical treatment in which patients are exposed to oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure in order to boost the oxygen content in the blood.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually not painful, though some patients may feel uncomfortable as if their ears are plugged, similar to the sensation when ascending in an airplane. Yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum may help relieve the sensation.
Some complications and side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy may cause pain, such as:
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Used For?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used for:
- Air bubbles in the bloodstream (air gas embolism)
- Infections, including soft tissue infections and certain types of brain or sinus infections
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Anemia due to severe blood loss
- Patients with scuba diving injuries such as decompression sickness
- Surgical wounds and adhesions
- Crush injuries
- Skin grafts that have failed to heal with traditional treatment
- Radiation injuries, such as damage resulting from radiation therapy for cancer
How Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Performed?
A hyperbaric oxygen chamber is a long plastic cylinder with a padded table that slides inside it.
- The patient lays on the table inside the tube and the chamber is gradually pressurized with pure oxygen, up to 2.5 times the normal atmospheric pressure. This increased pressure helps the blood carry the additional oxygen throughout the body.
- The chamber is slowly depressurized when the session is over.
- Sessions usually last about 2 hours.
What Are Side Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
- Sensation of ear fullness during the procedure
- Claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces)
- Temporary tiredness and lightheadedness
- Temporary worsening nearsightedness (myopia) but improvement in farsightedness (presbyopia), lasting about 6-8 weeks after treatments stop
- May cause pre-existing cataracts to mature faster than normal
- A drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during treatments
What Are Complications of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally very safe and complications are uncommon. Some complications may cause pain. When complications of hyperbaric oxygen therapy do occur, they may include:
- Ear injury, such as pain and ruptured eardrum
- Severe pain and pressure in the sinuses, and possibly bleeding into the sinuses (“sinus squeeze”)
- Pain and cracking of the teeth, in patients who have had recent dental work (“tooth squeeze”)
- Collapsed lung (pneumothorax), which is more common in patients with asthma or emphysema
- Seizures due to oxygen toxicity
- Chest pain, difficulty breathing, and respiratory failure (pulmonary oxygen toxicity)
- Decompression sickness (“the bends”)
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