Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a specialized medical intervention in which the atmospheric pressure is increased above 1 ATA (above sea level-14.7 psig), usually by the filling of a single person chamber, multi-place chamber or a hyperbaric room with a dose specific amount of oxygen (atmospheric oxygen or enriched oxygen). At sea level, our lungs absorb a certain amount of oxygen molecules from the air. When descending to lower altitudes (below sea level), the pressure is greater (above 1ATA) and now the lungs more easily absorb the compressed oxygen molecules in the air.
In contrast, at higher altitudes, when the pressure drops, the lungs work harder to absorb the dispersed oxygen molecules from the air. This is why oxygen masks deploy in an airplane during sudden high altitudes changes, helping to increase the O2 content due to a lack of pressure.
During a hyperbaric “dive” the fluids and tissues of the body receive an infusion of readily available oxygen. In fact, even cells and areas of the body with limited circulation become saturated in oxygen. The effect is an uptake of oxygen in the blood, plasma cerebral-spinal fluids, and tissues. In addition, the vaso-constrictive nature of hyperbaric therapy has an added effect of reducing inflammation and edema.
There are many different manufacturers and designs of HBO chambers–monoplace, multiplace, and portable. The treating physician’s protocol will dictate which type of chamber should be used.
Uses of HBOT
Currently, there is an increase in the amount of research being conducted on hyperbaric medicine in modern practice. Published studies in leading journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine document the use of HBOT for the treatment of such indications as multiple sclerosis, acute carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, air embolism, diabetic foot wounds, infections, burns, ulcers and edema. But these extablished indications only begin to open the current chapter in the use of modern hyperbaric technology.
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