In Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy, a patient breathes almost pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. By bringing more oxygen into the bloodstream, the treatment is thought to enhance healing for people with a number of conditions.
As long ago as 1662, a British clergyman and physician called Henshaw created the first hyperbaric chamber, a sealed room with a series of bellows and valves. He believed that using pressure could help in treating certain respiratory diseases.
Since the 1940s, Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy has been standard treatment for military divers in the United States.
Divers who surface almost immediately are at risk of decompression sickness (DCS), sometimes called "the bends," or of an air gas embolism (AGE). Jointly, these are known as decompression illness (DCI), and they both relate to problems with air in the body. Consequences can be severe. Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy is the primary treatment for both.
Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy treatment involves early administration of oxygen, and, if necessary, time spent in a decompression chamber. The diver must return to the pressure, or "depth," at which they were diving, followed by gradual decompression. The pressure reduces the volume of the bubbles.
DCI affects around 1,000 American divers each year, but the uses of Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy go beyond the diving community.
Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy has been shown to benefit people with:
More recently, it has been endorsed as an alternative health therapy for an assortment of conditions, from Alzheimer's disease to infertility.
To meet the growing demand, Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy have risen across a range of facilities, from hospital outpatient departments to spas. There are even chambers for home use.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Actually Work?
The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) - an international organization set up in 1967 to encourage cooperation on diving and undersea medicine - defines Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy as:
"An intervention in which an individual breathes near 100 percent oxygen intermittently while inside a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to greater than sea level pressure (1 atmosphere absolute, or ATA). For clinical purposes, the pressure must equal or exceed 1.4 ATA [atmosphere absolute] while breathing near 100 percent oxygen."
The body's tissues need oxygen to operate. Additional oxygen can help assist the damaged tissue to heal. Additionally, oxygen at high pressure can enhance tissue function and fight infection, under certain conditions.
At 1.4 ATA, the ambient pressure is three times higher than the air pressure we generally breathe. Breathing almost pure oxygen at this pressure can increase the concentration of oxygen available to the lungs by up to almost three times.
The Benefits of Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy?
Apart from DCI, Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy is the primary treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, and it also supports a handful of other therapies.
Working with the UHMS, the FDA have approved 13 uses of Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy. Furthermore, evidence has shown that they are safe and effective. Insurance companies or Medicare will usually cover the cost of treatment.
The approved uses are:
Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy is approved in the treatment of particular wounds that do not respond to conventional health treatment and therapy.
Decompression sickness, experienced by divers and pilots
Acute traumatic ischemia - for example, crush injury
Air or gas embolism
Anemia due to severe blood loss
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Some brain and sinus infections
Necrotizing soft tissue infections
Radiation injury - for example, as a result of cancer therapy
Wounds and infections that have not responded to other treatment, such as bone infections and diabetic foot ulcers, have been shown to positively respond to Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy. In addition, Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Therapy has been known to reduce the risk of amputation in people with diabetic foot ulcers.
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