Oxygen is carried by the bloodstream throughout the body continuously. However, the amount of oxygen a person can take in under normal conditions is limited. In a hyperbaric chamber the air is pressurized to 2-3 times normal air pressure. The oxygen concentration is also greater so that, with each breath, the lungs take in a high amount of oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment can be effective for a variety of health conditions, including enhancement of bone health and healing.
All tissues in the body need oxygen to function properly. With a higher concentration of oxygen circulating in the blood stream, the tissues receive more oxygen. This allows for better function and promotes tissue regeneration and healing. HBOT also helps the body fight any bacteria that may be present. Common ailments for which hyperbaric therapy is currently used include wound healing, radiation injury associated with cancer treatment, skin grafts, burns, crush injuries, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Both bone repair and growth require oxygen just like other organs in the body. The concentrated oxygen levels attained in hyperbaric chambers stimulates two types of cells, osteoclasts and osteoblasts. These cells play an important part in reabsorbing dead bone cells and creating new bone growth. While numerous studies are still being done on the full effects of hyperbaric chambers on bone regeneration, early results indicate positive effects.
Risks of HBOT
Complications associated with hyperbaric therapy are minimal but can include middle ear injury, lung collapse, seizures, and temporary nearsightedness due to temporary lens changes. These are mostly associated with the pressurized air environment. While occurrences are rare, patients can minimize risks by opting for treatment at a well-established and carefully monitored chamber in a medical setting.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the future
HBOT is relatively new for many diagnoses, although the therapy has been used for years to treat decompression illnesses seen in divers and pilots. Many supporters of hyperbaric therapy promote the treatment for traumatic brain injury, speeding up wound healing, certain types of cancer, stroke, and as an adjunctive treatment with stem cell therapy. Patients can discuss with a healthcare provider the risks and benefits of HBOT.