What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Is a method by which concentrated oxygen is delivered under pressure in specially designed chambers to significantly increase how much oxygen your blood plasma can store. Your blood then circulates this abundant, life-sustaining oxygen throughout your body. Many clinical studies have shown that increasing oxygen delivery to tissues enhances the body’s natural ability to heal. For this reason, HBOT is often selected as an adjunct therapy for a number of acute and chronic conditions, athletic injury, or simply to improve health and wellbeing. To date, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have been helped with both hard and soft-sided (mild) hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
The Healing Power of Oxygen
Oxygen is one of nature’s great healers, especially as it pertains to inflammation and injury in deep tissue (the brain and GI tract, for example). In general, oxygen is known to accelerate the body’s innate ability to repair and regenerate damaged tissue.
Several worthwhile phenomena occur in a hyperbaric oxygen environment, including:
- Body tissue and blood become saturated with oxygen
- Inflammation in deep-tissue structures is reduced
- Stem cell production is increased, promoting tissue regeneration where possible
- New capillaries develop
- Blood vessels dilate and circulation improves
- Immune system is stimulated
- Oxygen-deficient tissue is replenished with oxygen
- Repair of damaged tissue occurs faster
- Pain and inflammation are reduced, according to clinical reports
- Edema (swelling) is known to decrease
- Infection by oxygen-sensitive invading organisms is combatted
- Aids in detoxification and reduces or facilitates oxidation stress depending on the pressures used
How "In-Home" HBOT Works
Hyperbaric chambers used in HBOT include specially designed enclosures that can be pressurized to allow a person inside to absorb more oxygen. Certain chamber types require constant in-hospital or direct supervision. In comparison the soft-sided (mild) HBOT chambers as well as the hard-sided chambers we provide are specifically designed to be used in private homes and small clinics without the need for constant supervision.
What HBOT Treats?
There are currently only 14 "treatable" conditions with HBOT cited by the FDA.
Using HBOT for any other reason is considered "off-label" and is best decided by licensed physicians familiar with hyperbaric oxygen therapy as well as the condition in question to determine if it is safe and potentially beneficial on a case to case basis.
FDA approved uses include: 1. Air Or Gas Embolism 2.Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 3. Clostridial Myositis And Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene) 4. Crush Injury, Compartment Syndrome And Other Acute Traumatic Ischemias 5. Decompression Sickness 6. Arterial Insufficiencies 7. Severe Anemia 8. Intracranial Abscess 9. Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections 10. Osteomyelitis (Refractory) 11. Delayed Radiation Injury (Soft Tissue And Bony Necrosis) 12. Compromised Grafts And Flaps 13. Acute Thermal Burn Injury 14. Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (New! Approved On October 8, 2011 By The UHMS Board Of Directors)
Off-label use of hard- and soft-sided HBOT is common place in medical clinics worldwide. In fact there are so many real life testimonies attesting to HBOT's benefits across the board there is a current firestorm of research in the pipeline and much more planned for the future to demonstrate its effectiveness related to health and healing.
Technical Facts about HBOT (informs it off-label uses)
Increased Air Pressure for Better Oxygen Absorption
The greater the atmospheric pressure you’re breathing in, the more easily your lungs and blood vessels can become saturated with oxygen. Increased pressure essentially pushes more oxygen into your lungs, and more oxygen can dissolve into the blood plasma, which is then transported throughout your body, jumpstarting the healing process.
Why Pressure is Prescribed as either Higher or Lower?
Atmospheric pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi), or the number of pounds of force applied to a 1-square-inch area. At sea level, atmospheric pressure is approximately 14.7 psi, which is also sometimes measured as 1 ATA (atmosphere absolute) or 760 mmHg (millimeter of mercury). From there, atmospheric pressure decreases with elevation (e.g., is lower on a mountaintop, so much less oxygen is able to be pushed into our lungs and bloodstream) and increases below sea level, which is why an HBOT session is sometimes referred to as a “dive.”
Increased atmospheric pressure alone, such as that found below sea level, can increase oxygen uptake (hyperoxia) without an enriched oxygen source – and is part of what makes hyperbaria or hyperbaric oxygen therapy so potentially powerful. The opposite is true at higher elevations, which can decrease the oxygen supply in the blood (anoxia). Too little oxygen results in life-threatening altitude sickness (hypoxia).
Two laws of physical chemistry, Dalton’s law of partial pressure, and Henry’s law of proportionality help to explain the phenomena at work with HBOT and can be used to predict how much oxygen can be absorbed by the blood at a given pressure.
Clearly, some acute and chronic conditions require higher pressures, while other conditions appear to respond well to lower pressures. Research is pending to further the science of hyperbarics, but for now it is up to the prescribing physician to determine if higher pressures and supervision are needed or if an "in-home" approach at lower pressures, done more frequently is an appropriate alternative.
The Blood-Oxygen Connection
Red blood cells have a limit as to how much oxygen can bind with hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. The plasma portion of the blood typically contains just 3% oxygen.
In other words, placing someone in a 3-psi hyperbaric environment at sea level, the increase in atmospheric pressure goes from 14.7 psi to 17.7 psi. This increases the partial pressure of the oxygen, forcing more of it to be dissolved in the plasma than the typical 3%.
With HBOT, blood is significantly more oxygenated, and this oxygen-saturated blood is carried to surrounding body tissue. In this scenario, enough oxygen can be dissolved in the plasma to support the oxygen demands of a body at rest, even in the absence of hemoglobin!
Increasing the volume of oxygen in the blood plasma produces five basic known effects:
- Reduced volume of gas bubbles in the blood
- Vasoconstriction, which reduces swelling and secondary hypoxia
- Restoration of aerobic metabolism to ischemic (oxygen poor) tissue
- Detoxification of poisoned tissues
- Enhanced phagocytosis (the cellular ingestion of dead tissues and bacteria)
In summary, HBOT is a good thing for most people and research is showing it might even be a key component to healing several FDA approved and an ever increasing list of off-label uses as well!
Still have questions about HBOT?
Contact Natural Balance Hyperbarics of Ann Arbor, Michigan, at (855) 942-7246 or request a complimentary consult now.