You’ve Been Referred for Hyperbaric Therapy: Now What?
A healthcare provider may recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy for slow-healing wounds, infections, or decompression sickness. The treatment has been used as early as the 1600s for a variety of conditions, including anemia and carbon monoxide poisoning. For patients who are getting oxygen therapy for the first time, here’s what to expect.
How does the therapy work?
Injured tissue needs oxygen to heal. During hyperbaric therapy, patients breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized room. This allows for the lungs to get up to three times more oxygen than normal, leading to faster healing.
Before your appointment
Prior to the first hyperbaric appointment, a doctor may advise about whether or not to use certain medications or skin care products for the few days leading up to the appointment. At the first session, patients will be asked to leave all electronics and metals outside the hyperbaric chamber. These objects could cause unsafe sparks within the hyperbaric chamber.
Types of treatment
Some facilities will have hyperbaric chambers to treat multiple patients at the same time. In these settings, patients receive the oxygen therapy through an individual mask. Some facilities may also provide a clear, see-through oxygen hood.
In other cases, there will be a solo chamber for patients to get in. Patients lie on a flat table and then are transferred into a clear plastic tube. Although the chambers are for one person, patients can communicate with the therapist at any time during the treatment.
Increasing the pressure
As the therapist starts to increase pressure in the chamber, people may feel some slight discomfort and ear popping. Patients should continue to breathe normally in the chamber. Medical staff monitor the patient’s condition through the whole procedure. Usually, sessions last from between 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Is oxygen therapy a one-and-done deal?
For most people, multiple hyperbaric therapy sessions will provide the most benefit. In between sessions, patients should continue to receive normal medical care for ongoing conditions, such as diabetes or chronic infections.
The growing research of hyperbaric therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often recommended for wound healing, decompression sickness, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Research for the treatment continues to grow. Some studies have even shown that the therapy may be beneficial for some brain conditions. Patients should consult with a healthcare provider on an individual basis about the risks and benefits of oxygen therapy.