You may have heard about hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and there are chances most of you will be hearing it for the first time. This article will shed light on hyperbaric oxygen therapy, its benefits, and its uses.
Role of Oxygen in the human body
O2 is less regarded as a nutrient because of its particular access inside the human body, through the lungs instead of the gastrointestinal tract.
O2 is introduced into our body by two distinguished processes:
Gases are transported from the environment to the bronchi
Equilibrium is maintained in the distribution of O2 between alveoli space and blood.
What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
HBOT is a therapy that involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized environment. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a proven therapy for decompression sickness and the potential risk of scuba diving.
The air pressure is increased two to three times higher than the normal air pressure in HBOT. However, all current UHMS-approved indications require that users breathe near 95% oxygen while enclosed in a chamber pressurized up to 2 ATMs.
Principles of HBOT
As above mentioned, HBOT consists of the supply of pure oxygen under augmented pressure. This procedure is conducted in single or multiple chambers according to the number of users undergoing this protocol. This method uses between 1.5 to 2 atm of pressure. Nevertheless, it has also obtained promising results in some studies from <2 ATMs (1.5 ATMs) for certain conditions, although according to all UHMS currently approved indications it is required a chamber pressurized to a minimum of 2 ATMs.
The therapeutical basis of hyperbaric oxygenation is a consequence of the following main factors:
(1) By breathing 95% O2, a positive gradient is created, hence favoring diffusion for hyper oxygenated lungs to hypoxic tissues;
(2) Due to the high pressure, O2 concentration in the blood raises according to Henry’s Law (the amount of dissolved gas within a liquid is directly proportional to its partial pressure
Hard-shell vs soft-shell hyperbaric chambers
|HARD CHAMBER||SOFT CHAMBER|
|100% medical grade oxygen||Ambient air (approximately 21% oxygen—mostly nitrogen)|
|regrow bone and tissue||cannot regrow bone and tissue|
|Designed for therapeutic pressures to achieve healing||Designed as a temporary therapy for divers and mountain climbers|
|Kills harmful bacteria||Can facilitate the growth of aerobic bacteria|
|Loss of electrical power does not affect oxygen flow||Loss of electrical power and chamber rapidly deflates causing possible barotrauma to patient’s ears and pneumothorax to patient’s lungs|
|No risk of contaminated or polluted air||Risk of breathing contaminated or polluted air which can be counterproductive|
Approved Indications for HBOT
According to recent studies, there are 14 approved indications for HBOT, including a wide variety of complications like
- Air embolism
- Severe anemia
- Infectious diseases
- Diabetic foot
- Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning
Due to the multiple benefits of HBOT, the applications of this procedure are numerous. Recently, there are up to 14 approved indications for HBOT. Most of them can be grouped according to three main effects;
(a) In accelerating wound healing and angiogenesis enhancement
(b) Exerting antimicrobial effects
(c) As a medical emergency
HBOT benefits the human body
HBOT and wound healing: The angiogenesis enhancement
In clinical practice, HBOT has been observed to speed up wound healing. As wounds need oxygen to regenerate tissues properly, an exposure of 95% oxygen accelerates this process. The application in this field includes comprising
- Microbial-infected wounds
- Traumatic wounds
- Thermal burns
- Skin grafts
- Radiation-induced wounds
- Diabetic and vascular insufficiency ulcers.
- Injuries resolutions
- Diabetic foot ulcers
HBOT and infections: The antimicrobial activity
The most important applications of HBOT are related to necrotizing soft tissue infections (STIs), including
- Necrotizing fasciitis
- Fournier’s gangrene
- Gas gangrene
On the other hand, HBOT provides a central therapeutic option for intracranial abscesses (ICA). ICA includes
- Cerebral Abscess
- Subdural Empyema
- Epidural Empyema
HBOT in medical emergencies
HBOT is an urgent indication for some medical-related emergencies. For instance,
A. Decompression sickness.
B. Air embolism.
C. Central retinal artery occlusion
D. Crush injury and acute ischemia occurred as a result of a trauma.
E. CO poisoning is a problem that happens when household devices that use gas or coal produce CO due to incomplete combustion.
F. Severe anemias and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).
G. Improves symptoms and quality of life of patients affected by femoral head necrosis
Role of HBOT in the COVID-19 Pandemic
First studies in a severe patient affirmed that, compared to a normobaric oxygen supply, the better empiric outcome agreed with the theoretic expectancy of the potential uses of HBOT in COVID-19. In every report, this therapy has been rated as potential support in the relieving of cytokine storms. Another initial study showed rapid relief from hypoxemia from the beginning of the therapy in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.
Importance in sports
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a powerful anti-inflammatory and wound-healing accelerator that can help athletes recover from sports-related injuries and stay healthy. It improves brain health, limits formation of lactic acid, and increases brain performance, attention and focus.
HBOT facilitates injured tissue to absorb many times the amount of oxygen normally available. A 60-90 minute HBOT treatment permits oxygen to penetrate deeply into blood, plasma, and cerebral fluids, increasing healing and circulation where it’s needed most.
Oxyhelp hyperbaric chambers
The OxyHelp hyperbaric chamber is designed with strict technological specifications.
- Advanced technology
- Safe and secure for home use
- Low running costs and low maintenance
- Sleek, compact, light-weight, easy to use
Important to know!
The chamber is pressurized with air, not with oxygen because oxygen in high purity increases the high possibility of explosion.
HBOT is an effective method to increase blood and tissue oxygen levels, independently from Hb transportation. Its therapeutic basis can be understood from three different perspectives:
- Physical (Hyperbaric 100% oxygen)
- Physiological (Hyperoxia and hyperoxemia)
- Cellular/molecular effects.
Despite its benefits, there are still certain challenges that need to be overcome to enhance the current applications of HBOT. Moreover, it is equally important to quantify the adverse effects derived from HBOT, as well as potential contraindications from receiving this therapy. Future research should be designated on developing accurate systems to determine potential benefits and risks for patients before submitting HBOT.