Frequently Asked Questions
What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy? The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) defines hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as a medical treatment in which the patient is entirely enclosed in a chamber and breathes oxygen while the chamber pressure is increased to a pressure greater than one atmosphere.
According to the UHMS, breathing 100% oxygen at one atmosphere of pressure or exposing isolated parts of the body to 100% oxygen does not constitute hyperbaric oxygen therapy; the patient must receive the oxygen by inhalation within a pressurized chamber.
Are there different types of chambers? There are basically 2 types of chambers, monoplace and multiplace. The main differences are chamber size, number of occupants, and how the oxygen is delivered.
Is HBOT safe? HBOT treatment is prescribed by a physician and performed under medical supervision. Although there are minor risks, like all medical treatments, overall hyperbaric oxygen therapy is extremely safe.
What does HBOT feel like? At the start of the treatment, some patients experience a sensation similar to that felt while flying and/or landing in an airplane. As pressure builds, it is common to feel pressure in the ears. At the end of the treatment, as the pressure is released, the ears "pop" automatically. Most patients rest comfortably throughout treatment. Many read, sleep or listen to music. Because the temperature increases during pressurization, HBOT chambers are equipped with air conditioning to ensure patient comfort.
How long does a hyperbaric oxygen treatment last? Most treatments, including those for wound healing, last about 2 hours. Treatments for acute indications, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, may last as long as 4 hours, and under rare circumstances, some diving injuries may require treatment even longer than 8 hours.
How much pressure will be used for HBOT treatment? Treatments for most chronic conditions, including wound healing, are usually at 2.4 Atmospheres Absolute Pressure (ATA). Most emergencies are treated with greater pressures, but usually at 3 ATA or less.
How many HBOT treatments does a patient need? The treatment's pressure and duration, as well as the number of treatments received, is determined by the hyperbaric practitioners. This decision is based on the patient's diagnosis and their body's response to the therapy. Most wound healing patients receive one treatment per day (Monday – Friday) for 20 – 30 days. In general, patients with chronic conditions usually receive a longer series of treatments than patients with acute conditions.
Does insurance cover the cost of HBOT treatments? Most insurance companies cover hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the 14 FDA approved indications. If your treatment is not one of these indications a preauthorization should be obtained if you will depend on insurance to cover your treatment. We will assist in obtaining verification of coverage from an insurance company prior to starting treatments.
What are the risks or possible side effects of HBOT? Under proper supervision, the risks of HBOT are very minimal. The most common side effect is ear pain, and patients are monitored closely for this. Rarely, oxygen toxicity, pulmonary barotrauma and temporary vision change can be experienced.
The following list of potential side effects is reviewed with each patient prior to beginning therapy.
As pressure develops in the chamber, the patient will notice a slight warming. They will also feel a fullness in their ears and should begin ear clearing procedures. When compression is complete, the need for ear clearing ceases. The patient may now rest, watch TV, view a video tape or listen to music.
During decompression, the chamber becomes cooler and the patient will feel a slight popping sensation in their ears as they adjust to the changing pressure. There is no need to clear the ears during decompression. No oxygen mask is required in this chamber because the entire chamber is filled with oxygen.
Multiplace chamber: Treatment in the multiplace chamber is usually accompanied by the same physical sensations of temperature change, ear fullness and popping as experienced in the monoplace chamber. Most patients walk in and are seated in chairs and some are wheeled in on carts or wheelchairs. Oxygen is delivered via a tight fitting mask or a clear plastic head tent, because multiplace chambers are compressed with air, not 100% oxygen. Patients are able to read, listen to music or rest.
Are there any contraindications to hyperbaric oxygen therapy? The only absolute contraindication to HBOT is an untreated tension pneumothorax (an accumulation of air or gas in the pleural cavity of the lungs). There are several conditions in which caution must be observed. It is important that the hyperbaric physician is aware of the following conditions prior to beginning treatment: