Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is in the news again, as researchers are looking at the potential use of HBOT to treat early, rapidly advancing Alzheimer’s dementia. Although more research is certainly needed, it helps to know what effects HBOT has on the physiology of the body.
Physiological Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy on the Body
- HBOT dramatically increases amounts of physically dissolved oxygen in the blood for delivery to the tissues.
- HBOT increases the distance which oxygen diffuses from functional capillaries into hypo-perfused wounds. This allows marginally perfused tissues to get the oxygen they need to survive and to heal.
- HBOT provides the oxygen that is required for optimal collagen formation that is essential in wound healing.
- Intermittent exposures to high concentrations of oxygen results in angiogenesis (the development of a capillary network from existing capillaries), increasing capillary density in compromised tissues. Vasculogenesis (the development of a capillary network de novo) is enhanced as well, due to stem cell release from bone marrow
- HBOT enhances the release of stem cell from bone marrow into the circulation, which then targets wounded tissue to enhance repair.
- HBOT mitigates the reperfusion injury and inflammatory response that is associated with flaps and grafts and enhances outcomes in reconstructive procedures.
- HBOT inhibits microbial growth, deactivates bacterial toxins and enhances white blood cell function in infections that have not responded to conventional therapies. As capillary density increases, the delivery system for systemic antibiotics is also enhanced. The efficacy of antibiotics such as aminoglycosides is increased in a hyperbaric environment because the transport mechanism is oxygen dependent.
- HBOT enhances osteoclast and osteoblast function in bone remodeling. Osteoclast function is oxygen dependent.
- HBOT has a vasoconstrictive effect which reduces tissue edema from a variety of causes, including crush injury and compartment syndrome. At the same time, the high oxygen content in the plasma overcomes the effects of hypoxia and peripheral ischemia.
- HBOT has a defined anti-inflammatory effect, with a reduction in many biomarkers of inflammation, as well as mitigating the autoimmune component of many diseases.