What is Hyperbaric oxygen therapy? (HBOT)

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a therapeutic approach employed to accelerate the healing process of various conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, non-healing wounds, and oxygen-starved infections. During HBOT, individuals enter a specialized chamber where they inhale pure oxygen under increased air pressure levels, aiming to saturate the bloodstream with sufficient oxygen to facilitate tissue repair and reinstate normal bodily functions.

Facts about hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy emerged in the United States during the early 20th century. It garnered renewed attention in the 1940s when the U.S. Navy utilized it to address decompression sickness among deep-sea divers. By the 1960s, its application expanded to include the treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Presently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy remains a valuable treatment option for sick scuba divers and individuals afflicted with carbon monoxide poisoning, notably firefighters and miners. Moreover, it has gained approval for over a dozen conditions spanning from burns to bone diseases, encompassing a diverse range of medical needs including:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Cyanide poisoning.
  • Crush injuries.
  • Gas gangrene (a form of gangrene in which gas collects in tissues)
  • Decompression sickness
  • Acute or traumatic reduced blood flow in the arteries
  • Compromised skin grafts and flaps.
  • Infection in a bone (osteomyelitis) that doesn't respond to other treatment.
  • Delayed radiation injury
  • Flesh-eating disease (necrotizing soft tissue infection)
  • Air or gas bubble trapped in a blood vessel (air or gas embolism)
  • Chronic infection called actinomycosis.
  • Diabetic wounds that are not healing properly

How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Works:

  • HBOT facilitates wound healing by delivering oxygen-rich plasma to oxygen-deprived tissues. Injuries to the skin damage blood vessels, leading to fluid leakage and subsequent swelling. HBOT mitigates swelling while saturating tissues with oxygen, breaking the cycle of oxygen starvation and tissue necrosis. Increased chamber pressure enhances oxygen levels in the blood, promoting healing.
  • HBOT prevents "reperfusion injury," a severe tissue damage occurring when oxygen-deprived tissues regain blood supply. In cases like crush injuries, damaged cells release harmful oxygen radicals, causing tissue damage. HBOT aids in neutralizing these radicals, allowing healing to progress uninterrupted.
  • HBOT inhibits the action of harmful bacteria and bolsters the immune system. By deactivating bacterial toxins and elevating tissue oxygenation levels, HBOT enhances the body's resistance to infections. Additionally, it enhances white blood cell function, facilitating the detection and elimination of pathogens.
  • HBOT stimulates the production of new collagen and skin cells, fostering tissue regeneration. It promotes the growth of new blood vessels and triggers the release of substances like vascular endothelial growth factor, crucial for tissue repair. These mechanisms promote the proliferation of endothelial cells essential for healing processes.

Types of hyperbaric oxygen chambers/Chamber Structure

There remains some confusion regarding the various types of HBOT chambers available. While many are acquainted with this popular treatment, there's often a misconception about the typical options for chambers. Although chamber types may vary in material and construction, this aspect significantly impacts the level of treatment they offer.

Hard shell hyperbaric chambers feature a sturdy, rigid design, often crafted from materials like metal or acrylic. Renowned for their durability, these chambers are capable of withstanding high pressures, making them the preferred choice for high-quality construction and go up to 2.0ata.

In contrast, soft shell hyperbaric chambers boast a flexible and inflatable structure, typically constructed from materials like polyurethane. While these chambers are more portable and easier to set up, they may compromise on the pressure they can handle due to their material composition and is limited to a maximum of 1.3ata.

What happens during HBOT

During HBOT, individuals relax and lie comfortably within the chamber, engaging in deep breathing exercises. Sessions typically span from 60 to 90 minutes, although durations can extend up to 300 minutes based on treatment requirements. As pressure increases, you may experience a sensation of ear plugging, akin to changes in altitude. Methods like swallowing or chewing gum can alleviate this discomfort. Throughout the session, oxygen-rich blood circulates throughout the body, rejuvenating injured tissues. Post-session, mild side effects such as light-headedness, fatigue, or headaches may occur. Multiple sessions are normally required to achieve optimal benefits of HBOT.

Key Points:
  • HBOT originated in the early 20th century and gained prominence in the 1940s when the U.S. Navy used it for decompression sickness.
  • Today, HBOT is widely utilized for various conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, and delayed radiation injury.

How HBOT Works:

  • HBOT aids wound healing by delivering oxygen-rich plasma to oxygen-starved tissues, halting swelling, oxygen deprivation, and tissue death.
  • It alleviates reperfusion injury by neutralizing harmful oxygen radicals and fostering the body's innate healing mechanisms.
  • Additionally, HBOT fights bacterial infections, bolsters the immune system, and stimulates collagen production and skin cell renewal.

Types of HBOT Chambers:

  • Hardshell chambers cater to one individual and gradually pressurize with 100% oxygen up to a maximum of 2.0ata.
  • Softshell chambers also accommodate one individual and gradually pressurize with 100% oxygen up to a maximum of 1.3ata.

During HBOT:

  • Sessions, lasting from 45 to 300 minutes, involve relaxation while inhaling oxygen-rich air.
  • Some may experience ear pressure, akin to altitude changes, alleviated by swallowing or chewing gum.
  • Mild side effects like lightheadedness, fatigue, or headaches may follow treatment.


  • HBOT may not be suitable for those with recent ear surgery or injury, specific lung conditions, colds, or fevers.

This innovative therapy presents promising avenues for healing and recovery, transforming medical care across various conditions.


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