Hyperbaric Chamber Treatment Overview


Hyperbaric chamber therapy, also known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), is a medical treatment used to accelerate the body's natural healing processes.

Historically, hyperbaric oxygen therapy was first used in the United States in the early 1900s. It was later used to treat decompression sickness, which is dangerous when diving. Today HBOT is prescribed and medically monitored by institutions like the Mayo Clinic, and may even be covered by insurance (depending on the condition for which it is used).

Find out exactly how pressure chambers work and for the treatment of which conditions HBO is commonly used. Controversial, and perhaps more importantly, what does the study say about their effectiveness and safety?

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

How does HBOT work?

One of the HBOT methods involves treating a person in a tubular chamber. Some of the tubes are made of clear acrylic, allowing patients to see outside the camera. This transparency can eliminate some of the potential anxiety that a person might have when feeling trapped inside the tube.

During HBOT, the patient is instructed to lie down in a closed chamber and breathe air into the tube as the pressure gradually increases.

Another treatment, such as that offered at the Mayo Clinic, is a multi-user hyperbaric oxygen room, where oxygen is delivered through a light transparent mask or hood that is worn over the head. In this scenario, a person can sit or lie down in an armchair; With this method, there is no tube or chamber.

Treatment sessions can last up to two hours. The number of procedures prescribed depends on the condition for which HBO is used.

For example, for a condition like carbon monoxide poisoning, the Mayo Clinic offers 20 to 40 sessions , which will vary depending on the other conditions being treated.

Increased oxygen

It is impossible to control the amount of oxygen the body absorbs. HBOT is a way to hypothetically increase oxygen uptake by increasing atmospheric pressure. The pressure inside the chamber is usually two to three times the pressure of the outside air, which means that patients breathe 100% oxygen.

Hyperbaric chambers work by providing oxygen that can be controlled. Oxygen is usually carried throughout the body, after it is initially absorbed by the lungs, and then circulates to all tissues and organs through the heart and blood vessels.

HBOT allows oxygen to dissolve in the blood, body fluids, cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the head and spine), bones, and lymph nodes . Oxygen-rich fluids can enter areas where blood circulation is blocked.

HBOT is said to help the body by helping it perform the following functions:

  • It helps the body's immune cells kill bacteria.
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Provide collateral circulation (the growth of new blood vessels to provide additional oxygen to affected areas of the body).


The body needs oxygen to heal itself. Many injuries and illnesses are associated with a lack of oxygen-rich blood that cannot reach the affected areas of the body.

For example, diabetes can lead to poor and slow blood circulation, making it difficult for oxygen-rich red blood cells to reach broken skin. This leads to injuries that heal very slowly or injuries that do not heal at all.

HBO is used to treat many different diseases and injuries, which improve with increased oxygen levels in the tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used as a standalone treatment or as a procedure that can enhance the effects of medications such as antibiotics .


Some of the common uses of HBOT that are often covered by insurance include:

  • Arterial air embolism (air bubbles in blood vessels)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning (inhalation of toxic fumes)
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness (a common diving condition, also called "strains")
  • Special types of wounds that do not heal, such as diabetes wounds.
  • Gas gangrene ( fast-spreading gangrene from infected wounds that produces foul-smelling gas)
  • Intracranial abscess (resulting from an ear infection, sinus infection, or other primary source of infection)
  • Tissue damage from radiation therapy
  • Osteomyelitis (prolonged inflammation of the bones or bone marrow)
  • Compromised skin grafts or flaps
  • Severe anemia
  • Brain abscess
  • Burns
  • Devastating
  • Sudden deafness
  • Sudden, painless loss of vision

Additional terms

There are several other types of injuries and illnesses that claim to benefit from HBOT, but clinical data to support many of these claims is lacking. Consequently, these conditions are generally not covered by insurance:

  • Lyme's desease
  • Almost drowned
  • Recovery after plastic surgery
  • AIDS / HIV
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Bell's palsy
  • Brain trauma
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Cirrhosis
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Heart disease
  • Heatstroke
  • Hepatitis
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Sports injuries
  • Career
  • Traumatic brain injury

Side effects

Although hyperbaric chamber treatment is considered a natural and relatively safe treatment, there are some side effects.

These include sinus and ear problems (for example, popping in the ears) due to sudden changes in atmospheric pressure, fluid build-up or tear in the middle ear, temporary changes in vision causing myopia, collapse of the lungs (called barotrauma). due to air pressure. changes and oxygen toxicity (a side effect of taking too high oxygen concentrations).

Oxygen toxicity can cause lung failure, fluid in the lungs, or seizures. Taking regular air breaks during HBOT can help prevent oxygen toxicity, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical Library .

Another HBO hazard is fire. Pure oxygen can ignite a spark. Therefore, when preparing for HBOT, it is important that there are no lighters or battery-operated devices in the treatment area.

It is also important to remove petroleum-based hair or skin care products or flammable products from your body.

The side effects of HBO are usually mild and temporary, with some safety precautions. These safety measures include that therapy is performed for no more than two hours per session and that the pressure within the chamber is less than three times the pressure in the atmosphere.


Do not consider HBOT under the following conditions:

  • Lung disease (due to an increased risk of lung collapse)
  • Cold
  • Fever
  • Recent ear surgery
  • Recent trauma
  • Claustrophobia (fear of small spaces)


It is important to shower before treatment and avoid any perfume, deodorant, hairspray (and styling products). Wigs and jewelry are not allowed in the chamber. Alcohol and carbonated beverages should be avoided for at least four hours before HBO.

Smokers are advised to stop smoking during the treatment period because tobacco products block the body's natural ability to carry oxygen.

To minimize ear and sinus problems, techniques (such as yawning or swallowing) are taught to properly clean the ears. Tubes are sometimes inserted into the ears to minimize problems resulting from pressure in the ears during HBOT.

The following are the questions that healthcare professionals often ask before treatment:

  • Do you have cold, stuffy nose, or flu symptoms?
  • You have a fever?
  • You are pregnant?
  • Did you eat before treatment?
  • If you have diabetes, have you injected insulin before treatment?
  • Have your medications changed recently?
  • Do you have any concerns?

There are no activity or diet restrictions after HBOT is completed.


The results of clinical studies on the safety and efficacy of pressure chambers in various diseases were obtained.

Skin grafts and flaps

One study examined the efficacy of HBO as a treatment for tissue grafts and flaps . The results concluded that HBO can "increase the likelihood of composite graft survival, improve skin graft outcomes, and increase flap survival."

The study authors also explain that HBOT "is not indicated for healthy and healthy tissue, but it is a valuable adjunct in the treatment of dangerous grafts and flaps."

Traumatic brain injury

In human studies involving patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) , HBO has been recognized as "a promising and safe therapeutic strategy for patients with severe TBI." Note that this does not mean that there is clear evidence that HBO is effective in traumatic conditions. brain injury: more research is needed in this area.


In a report from the US Government Accountability Office, three article reviews found HBO therapy to be safe .

Cerebral palsy (cerebral palsy)

Although HBOT is touted as one of the most effective treatments for cerebral palsy, a double-blind placebo study (the gold standard in clinical trials) found that HBOT is no different from compressed air for children with cerebral palsy .


According to Dan Rose, MD, in the American Family Physician journal entry, 'Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is associated with a remission rate [the period during which symptoms of the disease decrease or disappear] from 81 to 85 percent in two to three years. in patients with refractory chronic osteomyelitis " .

Chronic refractory osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone that lasts for more than six months (regardless of antibiotic therapy and other appropriate medical treatment).

Get the word of drug information

Although hyperbaric chamber therapy is not yet considered a conventional treatment, there are clinical studies that support the efficacy and safety of this treatment for some conditions. However, there is insufficient evidence to support many of the claims about the widespread use of HBOT.

As with any natural treatment, it is vital that you do some research and even consult with your healthcare professional or healthcare professional before receiving HBOT.

Frequently asked questions

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is also called recompression therapy.

  • Most people find it quite pleasant and relaxing. A common sensation when the pressure in the chamber increases is a "popping" in the ears , a sensation similar to that of an airplane gaining height in the air. Sometimes people report dizziness during treatment and afterwards as if they just did a cardiovascular exercise .

  • Depending on the type of camera, you can either sit in a comfortable chair or lie down. If you want, you can wrap yourself in a blanket and just relax. HBOT cameras are often equipped with televisions, Netflix, and other entertainment.

  • There are two types of pressure chambers:

    • Single-seat chambers are clear acrylic tubes designed for one person and shaped and sized to lie flat during treatment.
    • Multi-room cameras can look like the cockpit of a small airplane. They have comfortable chairs and transparent hoods attached to a hose that carries oxygen to each person.

  • A 2-hour HBO session is safe and recommended for the treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning during pregnancy. Treatment is considered beneficial for both mother and baby. More than one session can harm a developing fetus.

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