Updated 4/22/22

Updated Visitation Policy (4/22)

Effective April 22, 2022 we have updated both hospitals’ Visitation Policy: RMC medical inpatients who are negative for COVID-19 will be allowed one visitor per day during their stay, including ONE overnight visitor. Read the full policy for details here.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chamber

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

It has several names: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, HBOT,  or HBO therapy. No matter what you call it, this treatment is a form of hyperbaric medicine used for healing wounds that are troublesome and refuse to heal on their own, as long as they meet certain criteria. 

During hyperbaric oxygen treatments, patients are placed in a hyperbaric chamber where they breathe in 100% pure oxygen in a high-pressure, controlled environment. When patients breathe in this amount of oxygen, the patient’s blood becomes oxygen-rich. 

Because this type of treatment involves breathing extra oxygen, this therapy helps blood flow to damaged tissue. This extra oxygen concentration can aid the body’s natural wound-healing processes because they are so heavily oxygen dependent. Our ability to fight infections stems from our body’s ability to call on oxygen to kill invading bacteria. 

It has also recently been discovered that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help your body naturally increase stem cell production. Not only can blood stem cells continually renew your body’s blood cell count, but they also contribute to your immune system’s response to infections.

How Do I Know If Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Is Right For Me?

If you experience a problematic wound that has trouble healing, or other eligible chronic problems, then hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be right for you. It’s best to discuss possible treatment options with your doctor. He or she will be able to best help you weigh your options for each type of treatment. 

Hyperbaric chambers can be used to treat a variety of conditions that would benefit from air pressure therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a great option for those suffering from common problems like carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, and especially for soft tissue infections associated with diabetes. 

For example, a hyperbaric chamber can dramatically reduce the risk of amputation for diabetic patients. Keep reading for more examples of how hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used as a treatment for certain health issues.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can cause permanent damage or even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when a person is exposed and breathes in this dangerous chemical. People can be exposed in a number of ways: car exhaust, smoke from a blocked fireplace, faulty gas appliances, malfunctioning heat exhaust systems in the home, and more. It is especially dangerous for babies, small children, women who are pregnant, and individuals with heart or breathing problems. Common symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, chest pain, and weakness. In severe cases, it can even lead to death.

Because HBOT increases your blood oxygen level, your body is better able to fight tissue death and infection while also promoting your natural healing response. Ultimately, this helps combat carbon monoxide poisoning by reducing the amount of carbon monoxide present in your blood. This helps your body restore healthy and normal levels of oxygen in the blood as fast as possible.

Decompression Sickness

Unlike carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness (DCS) is more rare. It usually occurs in those who work at very high or very low altitudes, like deep-sea divers, miners, pilots, or astronauts. When they reach our normal air pressure too quickly, bubbles of gas (like nitrogen) can form in the bloodstream. This illness caused by dramatic air pressure changes, also known as “the bends,” can be extremely dangerous and cause serious problems, like oxygen toxicity or an air or gas embolism. Common symptoms of a decompression illness include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, problems with vision, chest pain, ear ringing, and even a rash. 

For those suffering from a decompression illness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often prescribed because it immediately fills red blood cells with oxygen. This simultaneously removes a lot of the bubbles in the patients’ blood while filling damaged tissues with oxygen and reducing troublesome swelling. Because of the dangerous nature of DCS, it is best to receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment as soon as possible. 

Crush Injuries

A crush injury is one that results from trauma, force, or unnatural pressure placed on or in the body. Because this usually interrupts or changes the body’s ability to pump blood throughout the body, tissues, nerves, muscles, and other important parts of the body suffer from a lack of oxygen. Without property and immediate attention, this can lead to cell death that causes disability or even death. 

Hyperbaric oxygen treatments are often the first choice of treatment for crush injuries because it floods the patient’s tissues with hyper-oxygenated blood. It can also assist with wound care caused by the crush injury. Hyperbaric chambers can help heal skin grafts and flaps quicker than with just a traditional treatment alone.

Other Conditions:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Necrotizing soft tissue
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Radiation injury
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Soft-tissue infections
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Hearing loss

What To Expect With A Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chamber?

At RMC, our clinical team is specially trained to help treat patients using one of our two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers. During this pain-free treatment, patients simply lie inside an enclosed, pressurized chamber that resembles a large tube. The pressure inside the chamber is slowly increased until it is much higher than the normal atmospheric pressure. This allows patients to breathe in pure oxygen that is used to treat their condition. 

At the end of your treatment session, you’ll notice that the air in the chamber is slowly returned to normal. Our team of professionals is there every step of the way to ensure that you feel comfortable. 

How Long Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Last?

Treatments usually last around 90 minutes. And often, patients require a series of treatments in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to receive the full benefits. These usually take place over the course of several weeks. 

What Are The Side Effects of Hyperbaric Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is usually a pain-free treatment that is free of any side effects. For those who do experience them, they’re often mild and only last a few hours after treatment. For example, some patients report mild fatigue, middle ear discomfort, lightheadedness, and vision changes.

Treatment inside hyperbaric oxygen chambers is not the right decision for everyone, especially those who suffer from seizures. Those who take certain medications may also not be eligible for HBO treatments. This is why it’s important to discuss HBOT and other potential treatments with your doctor.