Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an innovative procedure that provides oxygen under high pressure, typically 1.5 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. This helps in healing wounds, gangrene, injuries that do not heal, carbon monoxide poisoning, and wounds that are deprived of oxygen.
It requires you to lie in a hyperbaric chamber with high-pressure oxygen, and this delivers adequate oxygen supply to the healing tissues, causing them to heal quickly.
Which type of wounds can hyperbaric oxygen therapy help in healing?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help heal a variety of different kinds of wounds. These include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Decompression sickness
- Necrotizing infections
- Chronic infections
- Crush injuries
- Diabetic wounds
- Wounds that are not healing
- Bone infections such as osteomyelitis and osteoradionecrosis
- Wounds that have reduced blood flow
- Cyanide poisoning
- Radiation injuries (radiation proctitis and radiation cystitis)
- Vascular insufficiency ulcers due to acute peripheral arterial insufficiency
- Air embolism
However, there are a few contraindications to the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It cannot be implied in the healing of brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, recent ear injuries, stroke, heart disease, certain type of lung disease or HIV infections.
How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy prove useful in healing wounds?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works in the following ways to ensure faster recovery of wounds:
- When a certain tissue suffers an injury. The blood vessels get damaged and leak fluid into the tissues resulting in the tissues to swell up. This further impairs oxygen delivery to the injured tissue. HBOT helps supply oxygen at high pressures to ensure recovery and reduces swelling of the affected area. Once the injured tissue receives oxygen-rich plasma, it typically interrupts the cycle of oxygen deprivation and swelling.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy restricts bacterial infections to occurring in the damaged tissues by supplying enormous amounts of high-pressure oxygen to the tissues. This impairs the toxins of certain bacteria and turns off their infectious ability. Moreover, high-pressure oxygen improves the potential of our immune system and strengthens the white blood cell response against invaders.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy prevents’reperfusion injury’ which is an injury occurring to tissues when blood supply is restored.
- When a certain tissue of the body is injured, it releases harmful chemicals called free radicals that inflict a great deal of damage to the tissues. This causes blood vessels to clump and stop blood supply and oxygen delivery to the injured tissues. It identifies these problem molecules and removes them from the site to replenish the area with oxygen.
- It encourages the formation of new blood vessels and new skin cells. Moreover, it also encourages the formation of collagen and stimulates the production of certain factors called vascular endothelial growth factor, which stimulates the endothelial cells to speed up the healing process.
- A study reveals that 26% patients showed improvement with conventional therapies. However, the ratio drastically increased in case of patients undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, with the percentages rising to 59%.
What to expect during the hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
Individuals undergoing the Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sit or lay down in the hyperbaric chambers and receive oxygen under high-pressure. Only doctors or your healthcare providers can prescribe this therapy. You need to wear a medical gown that is 100% cotton. You should expect a procedure of 45 minutes or a maximum of 300 minutes. It is essential to see the doctor 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. But this totally depends on the treatment plan. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber supplies increased amounts of oxygen to the injured tissue to hasten the recovery process. Your ears may feel plugged as you experience in an air flight or during scuba diving. Swallowing or chewing gum will unplug the ears.
This procedure can prove to be a bit difficult for people suffering from claustrophobia. These individuals can opt for R3 chambers which are more spacious and provide a better experience. You can listen to music, watch TV or even sleep inside the chamber while the therapy continues.
What are the side effects of this procedure?
The side effects of HBOT include:
- Trauma to middle ear
- Lung collapse
- Sinus problems
- Eye damage
- Low blood sugar
- Vision problems
- Oxygen poisoning (Symptoms include fluid in lungs, seizures and lung failure)
Also read: 20 Best Oxygen Concentrators in 2023
What is the best time to opt for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
When you notice that a wound on your body is not healing with time, it is best to consult your healthcare provider who can prescribe you to opt for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In case you wait for your injury or wound to heal at home, it may get complicated with infections and pus.
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