Each year, 7 million to 9 million Americans suffer from chronic wounds that significantly impact their quality of life. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to speed up the healing process of wounds and infections, such as chronic diabetic foot ulcers, tissue, bone infections and radiation injuries. During treatment, a patient is placed in a pressurized chamber where they breathe in pure oxygen.
How does hyperbaric therapy work?
When tissue is injured, it requires more oxygen-rich plasma to heal. In the chamber, air pressure is increased three times higher than the normal pressure. Your lungs can breathe in more oxygen than usual, which helps the wounds to heal quickly. The increased oxygen is transferred into your bones, lymph, plasma, bodily fluids, central nervous system fluids and damaged tissues. It also helps the white blood cells in your body kill bacteria.
What are the benefits of hyperbaric therapy?
Hyperbaric therapy improves the quality of life for many patients with minimal side effects. The side effects include trauma to the ears and sinuses due to the change in pressure. However, this noninvasive treatment has been shown to assist recovery for many patients. The benefits include:
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevention of tissue damage
- Improving the body’s immune system
- Supporting of the formation of new skin cells, blood vessels and connective tissue
- Shrinking air bubbles in the blood or tissue
- Healing damaged capillary walls and brain injury
- Preventing plasma leakage
- Stimulating inactive tissue and returning them to normal function
What conditions does this therapy treat?
Hyperbaric therapy can treat an array of conditions because of its benefits of increased oxygen. The conditions include:
- Air or gas embolism
- Carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning
- Diabetic wounds
- Gas gangrene
- Soft tissue infection
- Radiation tissue damage
- Bone death by radiation
- Bone infections
- Skin grafts
- Thermal burns
- Flesh-eating disease
- Open fractures to major arteries
- Decompression illness, such as deep-sea diving
- Crush injury, which often happens when the body is squeezed between two heavy objects
- Acute peripheral arterial insufficiency, which is a type of vascular disease
- Actinomycosis, which is a rare, infectious disease where bacteria spreads throughout the body through the tissues
If you are interested in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, it is important to talk to your physician. There are required preparations before seeking treatment. For example, you must quick smoking before receiving therapy.