Hyperbaric vs "Mild" Hyperbaric Therapy

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or “Mild” Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

   We are often asked what the difference is between hard sided hyperbaric oxygen chambers and inflatable hyperbaric chambers (“mild hyperbarics”). In our facilities we use only hard sided chambers. We wish inflatable bags were an effective treatment modality because it would be a much simpler and cheaper alternative to the chambers in our centers. Let’s examine the reasons why we do NOT use inflatable bags and call them hyperbaric chambers.

  1. Our chambers can deliver up to 9 times more oxygen (medicine) than an inflatable bag and a simple oxygen mask hooked up to an oxygen tank can deliver more oxygen(418mmHg) than an inflatable bag(237mmHg).

    If you are good at math and dimensional analysis, below is the explanation. If you are not technical, feel free to skip to number 2.

   Inflatable bags can not generate pressure above 1.3 atmospheres. If our goal is to try to deliver large amounts of oxygen, let’s examine how much oxygen can be delivered.

-As you read this, the amount of oxygen being delivered to you is 1 atmosphere of pressure x 760mmHg(pressure at sea level) x 21(% of oxygen in the air we breath). So, you are breathing (1 x 760 x0.21= 157mmHg).

- If you are in an inflatable bag and the pressure is 1.3 atmospheres and they are able to concentrate the oxygen to 24%, they are delivering (1.3ATA x 760mmHg x 0.24=237mmHg.

-Consider this: If you have a non-rebreather oxygen mask hooked up to an oxygen tank (the oxygen mask you see paramedics use when transporting a patient), the mask can deliver about 55% oxygen. By using the same equation (1ATA x 760mmHg x0.55=418mmHg).  The moral of the story is that an oxygen mask can deliver a higher amount of oxygen than an inflatable bag so why would you expose yourself to the time and expense for such little benefit.

- Our chambers are able to generate 3 ATA of pressure and typical treatment protocols are between 2.0ATA and 2.4ATA. So, at 3.0ATA (3.0ATA x 760mmHg x 100%=2,280mmHg) we can deliver almost ten times the amount of oxygen (medicine) to you. At our typical treatment depths we generate 1,520 mmHg of pressure at 2 ATA (almost 7 times as much oxygen) and 1,824mmHg at 2.4ATA (almost 8 times as much oxygen as an inflatable bag.

2. All valid scientific studies demonstrating the benefit of hyperbaric therapy were performed at pressures higher than those able to be achieved in an inflatable bag.  You can’t extrapolate those benefits at the much lower pressures generated from inflatable bags.

3. The FDA does not recognize inflatable bags as a medical device for hyperbaric oxygen treatment and you will not find them in any reputable hospital or medical office. The FDA only recognizes inflatable bags as a device used to treat altitude sickness during transport to a definitive medical facility.

4. Scientific literature shows that oxygen becomes bacteriostatic (biological or chemical agent that prevents bacteria from reproducing) at 1.5 ATA. Since inflatable bags can only produce 1.3ATA they not only can’t prevent bacteria from growing, they can actually enhance the growth of some molds, fungus, and aerobic bacteria.