Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a medical treatment where you breathe air (with or without extra oxygen) in a chamber that is above atomspheric pressure (1.3 ATA). The increased pressure pushes more oxygen into the red blood cells and spinal fluid, where it is delivered to all your organs. The additional oxygen speeds the healing process and optimizes all body functions.
History of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a type of treatment used to speed up healing of carbon monoxide poisoning, gangrene, wounds that won’t heal and infections in which tissues are starved for oxygen. In essence, HBOT heals your body from the inside out.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is painless and non-invasive. A patient is exposed to increased atmospheric pressure, thus allowing greater absorption of oxygen throughout body tissues. This increased pressure allows more oxygen to reach the cells within the body by bringing oxygen rich plasma to parts of the body that need oxygen.
Hyperbaric therapy was first used in the United States in the early 1900’s. It was useful, but didn’t catch on in mainstream healthcare as a recognized treatment. In the 1940’s, the Navy used it to treat deep sea divers who had decompression sickness. Again, it wasn’t being widely recognized as a go- to treatment. When the 1960’s rolled around, President Kennedy treated his son with hyperbaric for carbon monoxide poisoning. Patients started being treated for this more regularly after this, and gave HBOT a better foothold in the medical community as being a viable treatment.
Uses Of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Today, HBOT is still being used to treat the aforementioned conditions, plus a myriad of others as well. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cyanide poisoning
- Crush injuries
- Gas gangrene
- Acute or traumatic reduced blood flow in arteries
- Compromised skin grafts/flaps
- Osteomyelitis that doesn’t respond to other treatment
- Delayed radiation injury
- Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease)
- Air or gas embolism
- Chronic infection
- Diabetic wounds that won’t heal
There is growing, ongoing research producing evidence that HBOT will effectively treat conditions such as
- Long Covid symptoms
- Post Covid Care
- Traumatic brain injury
- Sports injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Parkinson’s Disease symptoms
- Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy prevents “reperfusion injury”. This refers to severe tissue damage that occurs when blood supply returns to tissues after they’ve been deprived of oxygen. When blood flow is interrupted by a crush injury, for example, several events inside the damaged cells lead to the release of harmful oxygen radicals. These molecules do irreversible damage, such as cause blood vessels to clamp up and stop blood flow. HBOT tells radicals to seek out the problem and let the healing continue!
Hyperbaric therapy also helps block the action of harmful bacteria and strengthens the body’s immune system. HBOT can disable the toxins of certain bacteria, and increases oxygen concentration in soft tissues. This helps resist infection. This therapy also improves the ability to destroy invaders.
Want to fade wrinkles and prevent new ones from forming? Regular HBOT sessions encourage formation of new collagen and skin cells by helping new blood vessels to grow. A new study from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Shamir Medical Center in Israel indicates that hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) in healthy aging adults can stop the aging of blood cells and reverse the aging process. In the biological sense, the adults’ blood cells actually grow younger as the treatments progress.
The researchers found that a unique protocol of treatments with high-pressure oxygen in a pressure chamber can reverse two major processes associated with aging and its illnesses: the shortening of telomeres (protective regions located at both ends of every chromosome) and the accumulation of old and malfunctioning cells in the body. Focusing on immune cells containing DNA obtained from the participants’ blood, the study discovered a lengthening of up to 38% of the telomeres, as well as a decrease of up to 37% in the presence of senescent cells.
Could it be said that HBOT is a fountain of youth? Some would say yes. Although research is ongoing, one can’t ignore the facts that have been proven thus far! When we speak about aging, we do not speak only about wrinkles and gray hair. At certain points in our lives the organs start to decline in function. The heart needs to work harder to pump blood through stiffened blood vessels and arteries. Bones shrink in size and density; they are more susceptible to fracture. We are in fact shorter. The bladder becomes less elastic, which means that we need to urinate more. We start forgetting things. Our memory is not working as it has. Our skin is less elastic, etc. We are getting older, whether we want to or not. But it would be great if we can renew the organ function, to memorize everything as we used to do, to fully live our lives and do all the things that we used to do.There are many studies already published showing that we can improve the cognitive functions of humans with HBOT, now the researchers have also shown how to reverse two main indicators of biological aging with HBOT. The Israeli group of scientists from Tel Aviv University and The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Shamir Medical Center have done the incredible thing, they reversed the aging with the simple non-invasive treatment, hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “Scientists have shown that this treatment was able to reverse two main indicators of biological aging – telomere shortening and accumulation of damaged senescent cells.” Until now we have only known that lifestyle factors may affect the health and lifespan of an individual by affecting telomere length. This is the first study ever that shows the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on the disease, called aging.
What’s it Like in a Chamber
There are two types of chambers. The first type is a monoplace chamber, which is built for one person only. There are soft shell chambers and hard shell chambers that look similar to an MRI machine, and slowly pressurize with 100% oxygen.
The second type is a multiplace chamber. These are hard shell chambers that accommodate 2 or more patients with oxygen masks or hoods, and although the treatment is the same, a technician may stay in the chamber as well while receiving treatment. This chamber, or room, can fit 2 or more people at once. The treatment is the same with the exception that the technician may also stay in the chamber as you are treated.
When in progress, patients sit or lie down and relax during the time and take deep breaths. Sessions can last from 45-300 minutes, depending on what’s being treated. When pressurizing and depressurizing, your ears may pop as if going up in an airplane or in the mountains. Usually, swallowing or chewing gum will alleviate this feeling. Your blood carries the extra oxygen throughout the body, infusing the injured tissues that need it. When a session is done, you may feel lightheaded. Mild side effects include claustrophobia, fatigue, and headaches.
One benefit of HBOT worth mentioning separately is even though not FDA approved yet, research has shown that neurogenesis is enhanced with the treatment. Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. It is crucial when an embryo is forming in the womb, but it will continue throughout our lifespan. When a trauma occurs to the brain, such as a concussion, it is very important that neurogenesis happens to repair any damage done to the brain after such an injury occurs. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can speed up this process, healing any damaged brain tissue, and restoring proper function so the patient can resume normal daily activity.
A groundbreaking study by William Fike, MD of Texas A&M University showed dramatic improvement in patients with Lyme disease treated with mHBOT. It’s been proven to reduce pain significantly, modulate the immune system, increase energy, alleviate sleep dysfunction and decrease cognitive dysfunction (brain fog). In some cases, patients are able to decrease use of antibiotics.
Oxygen is involved in 5,769 known cellular processes. Many diseases thrive in a low oxygen environment. Lack of oxygen and blood flow to cells plus inflammation causes many things to happen, such as:
- Reduced ability to remove cellular toxins and debris
- Reduced ability to absorb nutrients
- Increased oxidative stress (aging)
This makes it harder for cells to produce the energy needed to repair, regenerate and keep the body healthy and functioning properly. mHBOT treats common denominators shared by different diseases, including low oxygen levels, reduced blood flow, and inflammation. It works because a patient’s lungs can accumulate more oxygen under pressure than when breathing under normal air pressure. This has a positive impact on many chronic illnesses.
There are different “dosages” of mHBOT that are appropriate for treating different conditions. There are three ways hyperbaric oxygen dosages can be adjusted:
- Degree of pressure used
- Amount of oxygen given
- Duration of treatment, including the length of session under pressure, number and frequency of treatments.
The degree of pressure can vary from “mild” hyperbaric (1.3 ATA and below) to “hyperbaric” (above 1.5 ATA)
Licensed physicians are legally approved to use HBOT/mHBOT as they see fit to treat their patients. While there are currently only 14 FDA approved conditions covered by insurance, there are many “off label” conditions that have been treated with lots of success. Outside the US, however, HBOT and mHBOT are used as the standard of care for many conditions, chronic and acute. Here is a list of “off label” conditions treated successfully with HBOT:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Birth injuries
- Some cardiac conditions
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation
- Learning disabilities
- Lyme Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Migraine headaches
- Near drowning
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post concussion syndrome
- Post traumatic stress syndrome ( PTSD)
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
- Raynaud’s Syndrome
- Sports Injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Ulcerative colitis
“FDA Approved” Conditions include:
- Air or gas embolism
- Anemia, blood loss
- Bone infection
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Crush injury
- Gas gangrene
- Intracranial abscess
- Problem wounds
- Radiation necrosis
- Skin grafts
- Soft tissue injury
HBOT is an evidence-based treatment demonstrated to heal and reduce the severity of wounds and infections. Among patients who complete the treatment recommended by their physicians, the rate of healing ranges is greater than 85 percent. That’s a phenomenal outcome!
Generally, anyone who needs oxygen treatment should consider committing to at least a couple of sessions per week as a bare minimum. Many patients see great results with one treatment per day for five days, up to 20-40 treatments total, however, consulting with your doctor is important to get a feel for how many sessions you might need, since treatment dosing is specific to the patient.
HBOT for Wound Care
The fact is that wounds need oxygen to heal. Normally, oxygen is simply delivered to wounds through your blood. In an HBOT, though, your body is fed 100% oxygen at a pressure that is greater than normal, allowing it to extend beyond the reach of your arteries, stimulating mitochondria, and empowering your body’s cells to accelerate wound healing.
In a 2014 clinical study, 40 patients with complex wounds received HBOT treatment delivered with 100% oxygen for 90 minutes. The results were outstanding. More than 75% of patients with complex wounds healed after their completion of a series of HBOT treatments (given five days per week). After only five HBOT treatments, wound size reduced by an average of 29.7 percent.
As mentioned before, hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment length and success can vary, depending on the condition being treated and its severity. However, these studies can not be ignored, as HBOT continues to be a promising treatment option for many conditions where standard medical treatment falls short. Some would even recommend trying hyperbaric treatment even before the typical western medicine route. The benefits far outweigh the risks, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatment routes as well. Again, that is something that should be discussed with your doctor during consultation, when planning your course of treatment.
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