What You Should Know About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric chambers are often thought of in treating scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. However, much more can be done to heal the body with pressurized oxygen therapy. Increasing the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream boosts infection-fighting power and heals wounds more quickly.

Key takeaways:
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    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a safe and painless medical treatment.
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    High concentrations of oxygen in the bloodstream heal the body in numerous ways.
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    HBOT is beneficial for many types of health conditions.
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    Research is ongoing for diseases and health conditions that may benefit from HBOT.

What is Hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a well-researched treatment that increases oxygen availability in the body. Oxygen helps heal our bodies — but, more importantly, every cell would die without it. It's one of the oldest treatment modalities, dates back 350 years, and has been in continuous use ever since.

Our body's blood vessels function as oxygen highways. Our red blood cells carry oxygen to every part of our body, feeding large organs, tissues, and cells. Unfortunately, when our circulation is compromised by disease or traumatic injury, the blood flow is decreased to that area, creating an oxygen-deprived environment. This is the worst condition for healing, and it is all too common in people with chronic health problems.

These are the health conditions that may affect blood flow and oxygenation:

  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke;
  • Anemia;
  • Cancer.

Skin and oxygen levels

The skin grows rapidly. It is the body's largest organ — and the first line of defense against infection. The immune system must be strong and quick to fight invading bacteria should a wound occur. Skin cells are continually sloughing off and renewing to stay strong. However, poor circulation causes wounds to take longer to heal because insufficient oxygen is available for the skin to repair itself.

HBOT treatment benefits

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy supplies highly-concentrated oxygen to be absorbed by the lungs at three times the usual rate allowing severe burns and infections to heal when medication and wound dressings aren’t enough. Not only does increased oxygenation heal the skin, but it also helps produce new blood vessels and connective tissue. Additionally, it supports the immune system as it fights serious infections.

HBOT is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat many conditions including:

  • Severe anemia;
  • Arterial gas embolism;
  • Decompression sickness;
  • Radiation injuries;
  • Gangrene.
  • Brain abscesses;
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning;
  • Sudden vision loss;
  • Burns.

How quickly does HBOT treatment work?

The number of treatments needed depends on the condition. For example, carbon monoxide poisoning may only take 2-3 treatments, while wound therapy may require 40. Though receiving daily treatments for several weeks is common for many conditions, many patients see the benefits after a week or so. However, it is important to complete the full course of treatment for maximum healing.

Feeling tired or hungry after completing therapy is normal. Additionally, blood sugar monitoring for people with diabetes is important. Physicians recommend having a snack before and after treatment to help keep sugar levels within normal limits. However, most people can continue with their normal activity directly after treatment.

Is HBOT covered by insurance?

HBOT is done in several settings. Many hospitals have a hyperbaric chamber and treat “on-label” conditions known as FDA-approved conditions, which most insurance companies cover. The general cost for HBOT is between $100-$200 per treatment depending on where the treatment is done and how many sessions are required. It is more expensive in a hospital setting. Still, there are HBOT clinics in most major cities, and portable hyperbaric chambers are starting to become available for weekly and monthly rentals at a fraction of the cost that hospitals and clinics charge.

The HBOT clinics and portable chambers will also treat “off-label” conditions, of which there are many. HBOT has been found to help a wide variety of conditions that have not yet been FDA-approved. However, insurance companies are less inclined to cover off-label treatments although this is starting to change and HBOT clinics will work with clients to try and obtain insurance coverage.

Off-Label conditions that HBOT is being used for, but not covered by insurance:

  • Addiction;
  • Autism;
  • Brain injury;
  • Cerebral Palsy;
  • Crohn's disease;
  • Circulation problems;
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Lyme disease;
  • Migraine;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
  • Stroke;
  • Sports Injury.

Increasing oxygen levels through HBOT benefits the whole body. The high oxygen in the bloodstream improves the brain’s neurotransmission, building new neural pathways, and boosting circulation throughout the body to help heal and restore itself. This easy, non-invasive therapy is at the forefront of scientific study and research proving its effectiveness on a widely expanding list of debilitating diseases.


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Dr. Borsand Dr. Borsand
prefix 23 days ago
I love to see more information posted about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. As a Hyperbaric Clinician, I have seen this field grow exponentially and the new research has been provided so many more avenues for treatment. If anyone has any questions about HBOT, I am always happy to chime in and provide links to research!
Jennifer Binford RN Jennifer Binford RN
prefix 17 days ago
Thank you for your reply, Dr. Borsand. HBOT is an exciting treatment modality, especially in the growing number of diseases and chronic illnesses that are being researched as they are found to diminish or be healed through this therapy. It's state-of-the-art, and more portable chambers will become available for people to use for treatment at home.