Understanding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Protocol
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment in which the patient breathes pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. Medical staff must follow a process to achieve this environment. HBOT is typically an adjunctive therapy that should be used as a part of an overall treatment plan. Additional treatment can include surgery, medication management, and wound care, depending on the patient’s need.
HBOT works because when pure oxygen is pressurized, it allows oxygen to be dissolved into plasma. Typically, the plasma does not carry oxygen, but that is left to hemoglobin or red blood cells. By supersaturating the blood with oxygen, more can reach the cells. Studies suggest that oxygen can perfuse four times further into body tissues than usual, and oxygen concentration increases by up to 1200%.
The standard atmospheric oxygen that is present at sea level is 21%. This allows for healthy individuals to sustain normal body functions. However, in situations where an individual has another health issue, the body may not utilize as much oxygen, or medical treatment may be assisted by increased oxygen to the affected tissues. This allows the patient’s body to heal more effectively and reduces the amount of time it takes to recover from an injury, sickness, or disease.
Indications for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used to treat a variety of different conditions. However, it is crucial to work with your doctor to determine if you are a candidate for HBOT to be included in your treatment plan. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States carefully oversees the specific uses for HBOT. The FDA has approved several different uses for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. One of the primary uses of HBOT can be as a therapy in CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful because it binds to the cells and holds the place where oxygen would typically adhere. When the cell’s receptors already contain carbon monoxide, they cannot add oxygen. HBOT overloads the blood with oxygen. Due to the volume of oxygen in the blood and the pressurized environment, oxygen can forcefully eject the carbon monoxide and take its place, restoring normal body function.
Some of the additional approved treatments include:
- Gas gangrene
- Some types of burns
- Intracranial abscesses
- Acute traumatic ischemia.
- Embolisms (either air or gas)
- Tissue damage from radiation
- Central retinal artery occlusion
- Chronic refractory osteomyelitis
- Decompression sickness (the Bends)
- Injuries resulting from a crushing force
- Infections causing the death of soft tissue
- Lower extremity wounds in diabetic patients
There are some conditions that the FDA has not approved, but patients may see the benefits of HBOT. Additionally, while these therapies may help patients with specific issues, HBOT may not be covered by insurance for these conditions.
- Chronic pain
- Lyme disease
- Spinal injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic fatigue
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Interstitial cystitis
- Migraine headaches
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Some types of cancer treatment
- Concussions or other brain injuries
If you suffer from any of these conditions, talk to your doctor to see if hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be an option for you.
What is the Most Common Complication of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
While HBOT is considered one of the safest natural treatments, there are still some potential side effects that patients should know. These include a negative pressure injury to the ear or lungs. There can also be some potential for changes in blood sugar levels, particularly with individuals who have diabetes. Some people also describe some mild to moderate changes to their vision. However, the vision changes are generally temporary, and your vision should return to normal. While the side effects of HBOT are usually very mild, it is vital to communicate any changes or discomfort that you feel while undergoing your therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Benefits
While each patient seeks HBOT for their treatment, there are several universal benefits for patients. Even if you go for a specific treatment, you may find that this specialized approach helps you feel better in many other ways! Here are some of the benefits that patients see during their treatment.
Reduced Inflammation – Because HBOT helps constrict blood vessels, it reduces the leakage of the fluids that cause swelling. Many patients will be able to notice these changes almost immediately. However, some studies suggest that long-term HBOT can help turn off the genes responsible for creating additional inflammation.
As a side benefit of reduced swelling, the body responds with less inflammation with a more robust immune system and improves mitochondrial function.
Antimicrobial – HBOT helps to improve the immune system because it weakens the bacteria responsible for infections. Additionally, hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases free radical scavengers and natural antioxidants in the body. This increase helps the body fight disease and illness and improves the efficacy of certain antibiotics.
New Blood Vessel Growth – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps the body grow new blood vessels. Additional blood vessels allow the body to increase blood circulation and revitalize tissues by perfusing them with more blood. While this is the aim of HBOT as an active treatment, many patients have improved blood vessel perfusion after their treatment has concluded.
Stem Cell Circulation – Stem cells are the cells in your body that have not differentiated into the type of cell they will become. Stem cells can be a critical component of helping your body heal by replacing dead or damaged cells with healthy cells. Studies suggest that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can increase the stem cells in circulation eight times as much as expected. The increased number of stem cells circulating through the body can improve healing time and overall patient outcomes.
Assists Mitochondria – The mitochondria in our cells are considered the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria produce ATP or adenosine triphosphate. This substance is a chemical that stores energy for our cells to use. If you have damaged cells, they cannot transfer oxygen or produce ATP. However, HBOT therapy allows more oxygen to fuel healthy and damaged cells. With the high levels of oxygen reaching the cells, they can increase oxygen production and improve your overall ATP production.
Are You a Candidate for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
If you have any of the conditions listed above or think that HBOT could help improve your health, call today to schedule a consultation. We want to help you achieve the health and quality of life you deserve.