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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses a special chamber, sometimes called a pressure chamber, to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Information

Some, but not very many, hospitals have a hyperbaric chamber. Smaller units may be available in outpatient center.

The air pressure inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber is about two and a half times greater than the normal pressure in the atmosphere. This helps your blood carry more oxygen to organs and tissues in your body.

Hyperbaric therapy can help wounds, especially infected wounds, heal more quickly. The therapy may be used to treat:

  • Air or gas embolism
  • Bone infections (osteomyelitis ) that have not improved with other treatments
  • Burns
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Certain types of brain or sinus infections
  • Decompression sickness (for example, a diving injury)
  • Gas gangrene
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections
  • Provide enough oxygen to the lung during a procedure called whole lung lavage, which is used to clean an entire lung in patients with certain medical conditions
  • Radiation injury (for example, damage from radiation therapy for cancer)
  • Skin grafts
  • Wounds that have not healed with other treatments (for example, it may be used to treat a foot ulcer in someone with diabetes or very bad circulation)

Treatments for chronic conditions may be repeated over days or weeks. A treatment session for more acute conditions such as decompression sickness may be longer but not necessarily repeated. You might feel pressure in your ears while you are in the hyperbaric chamber. Your ears may pop when you get out of the chamber.

References

Christiani DC. Physical and chemical injuries of the lung. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 94. 

Rabinowitz RP, Caplan ES. Hyperbaric oxygen. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 43.

Updated: 8/30/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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