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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Wound Healing

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) involves exposing the body to 100% oxygen at higher pressures than what you normally experience. Wounds need oxygen to heal correctly. Exposing a wound to 100% oxygen at higher pressures can, in some cases, speed the healing process.

Why might I need hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat medical conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning. It's also used for certain types of wounds such as:

  • Delayed radiation injuries

  • Soft tissue infections

  • Thermal burns

  • Certain skin grafts and flaps

  • Crush injuries

  • Diabetes-related wounds

  • Non-healing pressure sores

Ask your healthcare provider if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is appropriate for your condition, particularly if you have diabetes-related wounds.

What are the risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:

  • Pressure-related injury to your ears or nose

  • Nearsightedness (this often goes away within days or weeks after the last treatment)

  • Non–life-threatening convulsions linked to oxygen toxicity (seizures)

  • Decompression sickness

  • Collapsed lung

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

A few people with severe heart failure have had additional problems with heart function after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Share your complete health history with your provider to make certain hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe for you.

How do I get ready for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

  • Make a list of questions you have about HBO therapy. Discuss these questions and any concerns with your healthcare provider before the treatment. Think about bringing a family member or trusted friend to the medical appointment to help you remember your questions and concerns.

  • You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the HBO therapy. Before you sign, read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.

  • HBO therapy is often done as an outpatient procedure. This means you go home the same day.

  • Tell the technologist if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

  • If you are on a strict medicine schedule, such as insulin or pain medicine, schedule your therapy around your medicine schedule.

  • The sessions can cause extreme tiredness (fatigue). So have a family member or friend available to drive you home.

  • Make certain all wounds are correctly dressed before coming for therapy.

The chamber is filled with 100% oxygen. Because of this, many items are restricted due to risk of fire. Your healthcare team will give you a specific list of items before your first treatment. Restricted items include:

  • Ignition sources such as lighters, matches, and cigarettes

  • Electronic items such as phone, music device, and battery-operated devices

  • Petroleum-based skin products, hair gels, sprays, or mousse

  • Deodorant and lip balm

  • Perfume and cologne

  • Nail polish

  • Hard contact lenses

  • Dentures

  • Jewelry including watch, earrings, and necklaces

  • Clothing that is not 100% cotton or a cotton blend

  • Hearing aids

  • Insulin pump

  • Ostomy bag

Follow all other instructions your healthcare provider gives you to get ready.

What happens during hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be done in different ways. It can be given in a special type of room called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. In this setting, you are completely immersed in 100% oxygen delivered at high pressure. There are 2 types of chambers: monoplace and multiplace.

  • Monoplace chamber. This is equipment for just one person to receive the treatment. It's a clear plastic tube about 7 feet long, with a hatch on the end. Most hospitals have this type of chamber.

  • Multiplace chamber. This is a large room-sized chamber. It can treat up to 12 people at a time.

Here is what happens during a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session:

  • You will likely be asked to remove your clothing and wear a medical gown that is 100% cotton. Don’t take anything else into the chamber.

  • You will lie on a table that slides into the monoplace chamber.

  • You will be asked to relax and breathe normally during the procedure. You can watch TV or listen to music.

  • You will be able to talk to the therapist at any time during the treatment. The therapist can see you and talk to you at all times

  • The chamber will be sealed and then filled with pressurized oxygen.

  • The pressure will rise to 2.5 times the normal air pressure. You may feel some ear popping or mild discomfort. This is completely normal.

  • The session will last anywhere from 30 minutes to up to 2 hours.

  • After the therapy, technicians will slowly depressurize the chamber.

What happens after hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Once your hyperbaric oxygen therapy session is complete, you may feel lightheaded or tired. These symptoms will often go away after a short time.

The number of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments you will need will vary. It depends on the extent of your wound and how well the wound responds to therapy. The course of treatment often lasts several weeks.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how you will get the results

  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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