Frequently asked questions
Here are answers to most common questions. Can't find an answer? Call us!
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a whole body treatment, which improves the body’s natural healing process by inhaling 100% pure oxygen in a chamber pressurized to 1.5 atmospheres or greater with a safe and comfortable patient inside.
Through an oxygen mask, the patient breathes in 100% medical oxygen. Once the chamber reaches the predetermined pressurization, the oxygen level in the patient’s body increases several hundred times above normal. This is where healing begins to take place with the oxygen now being able to reach deep into the tissues to promote recovery.
Furthermore, the increased oxygen greatly boosts white blood cell count to help kill bacteria, reduce swelling and even allow new blood vessels to grow more rapidly in the affected areas.
Hyperbaric therapy is a simple, non-invasive, and painless treatment.
Physical recovery requires adequate oxygen levels to the tissues or healing isn’t able occur. Recovery can become complicated and linger at the cellular or tissue level when not addressed. Sometimes adequate oxygen cannot reach damaged areas and the body’s natural healing ability is unable to function properly. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a non-invasive method for providing this extra oxygen naturally and with minimal side effects.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to improve patient’s quality of life. Conditions such as head injuries, chronic fatigue, stroke, cerebral palsy, cancer, diabetes and more have responded favorably to HBOT.
For a list of conditions, please see our applications page.
A typical treatment lasts between 60 and 120 minutes (1hr – 2hrs).
The number and frequency of treatments needed varies with the specific condition that is being treated as well as how your body is responding to the treatments. For many conditions, one treatment a day (Monday through Friday) is given for a total of 20 to 40 treatments, usually a total of four to eight weeks. Our physicians will monitor your progress and adjust your treatment course as necessary.
Yes, one of our well trained physicians will be onsite during your treatment.
Our physicians are also available for consultation by phone, text or email. We will work with your current healthcare provider(s) and help determine, integrate, and personalize your hyperbaric health program
Of course, each patient’s experience will be somewhat different, but in general, the following events will occur:
•You will be seen by the hyperbaric physician who will perform a history and physical. He or she will determine if hyperbaric treatments are appropriate for you, order any necessary tests, and discuss the treatment options.
•You will speak with a hyperbaric technician who will discuss in detail the sequence of events during a dive, discuss the scheduling of treatments, and review applicable risks and safety precautions.
•If you are being seen because of a chronic wound, pictures will be taken to help judge the progress of treatments and a trans-cutaneous oxygen measurement test (TCOM) may be performed.
There are several stages during a typical treatment (or dive).
• The first stage is compression (or diving) in which the chamber is pressurized to the prescribed pressure (or depth), most commonly 2.0 atmospheres absolute (ATA) (the equivalent of 33 feet below the surface of the ocean, i.e. 45 feet of sea water) or 2.5 ATA (49.5 FSW)
•The chamber is maintained at this pressure (depth) and patients breathe 100 percent oxygen via a mask.
•Patients are given two air breaks during this oxygen-breathing period where they can take off the mask to get a drink of water, etc.
•After the oxygen periods are finished, the chamber is depressurized (or surfaced) and the treatment is finished.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy should not be used if the patient has a collapsed lung.
Physician approval and precautions should be taken for treatment of the following conditions:
•Current upper respiratory infections, chronic sinusitis, or sinus problems
•Severe emphysema or lung disease, and breathing difficulties and/or fluid in the lungs
•Certain medications (please bring your list of current and past medications to your consult)
When these conditions are present it does not mean treatment cannot be done. A physician should always evaluate the patient first and determine if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is possible.
As with any treatment, side effects are possible, however, hyperbaric oxygen side effects are minimal. HBOT has been proven to be extremely safe, and the actual number of side effects is extremely small.
Oxygen under pressure is a therapeutic dose of oxygen. As we know, the higher the dose of a drug (in this case oxygen) the greater the risk for potential side effects. The prescription dose of oxygen is based upon pressurization, time, and percentage of oxygen. Therefore, an increase in pressurization, time, or percentage of oxygen will all independently increase the dose of oxygen.
With short term 100% oxygen delivery, the side effects noticed between 1.5 and 2.5 atmospheres of pressure (ATA) are relatively minimal. Our highly trained staff will educate you on what to look for and has techniques to further minimize these events.
Most Common Side Effects
• Ear and/or sinus pressure/pain
Other Side Effects That Are Rare
• Oxygen toxicity
• Cataract progression
• Lung damage
• Risk of fire
• Blood sugars may drop too low in diabetic patients
Other Areas of Concern
•Emphysema with CO2 retention
•History of middle ear surgery or disorders
•History of seizures
•Upper respiratory tract infections
Every visit, your technician will take your vital signs and ask how you are feeling to ensure you are physically ready for treatment. Once inside, your technician will ensure you feel safe and comfortable, before beginning your treatment. Next, the pressure is gradually increased until the predetermined pressure level is achieved.
Once achieved, you will breathe 100% pure medical grade oxygen for the duration of your prescribed treatment through a mask. You have the option of watching TV, a movie, listening to music or even sleep during your session.
Details About Pressurization
As the chamber is being pressurized, air presses on the outside of your eardrums and pushes them inwards, similar to the feeling that you may have experienced when you are flying in an airplane. This build-up in pressure can become painful if you do not equalize your ears.
The good news is that most people can easily clear their ears, both in the chamber and on flights. Some, however, can have extreme difficulty, particularly when they have a cold/flu and are congested. Be sure to signal the technician immediately if you have discomfort in your ears or sinuses. Don’t wait until it really hurts.
The technician will stop pressurizing work with you until you equalize. When you’re comfortable, we will resume pressurizing. Our technicians are experienced with helping special needs patients and are prepared to work with your individual requirements.
Ears and Sinus Equalization
This may vary patient to patient. The following are the most common methods:
•Swallow, yawn, or drink sips of water.
•Lean your head to one side and gently pull up on the top of your ear while yawning. Repeat, if necessary.
•The Valsalva Maneuver – Pinch your nose closed, close your mouth and lift the front-tip of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth. Attempt to blow through your pinched nose (short and sharp) but not too forcefully. This directs air from your throat into your ears and sinus air spaces.
If you have a history of problems with your ears when flying or traveling up mountains, you may wish to use nasal decongestants before your first few treatments. Always check with your doctor, prior to starting any new medications.
How do I communicate while inside the chamer?
You can speak freely to your technician or doctor without restriction.
Electronics, ignition sources, as well as, any products that are Petroleum or alcohol-based are not allowed inside the chamber at any time. This includes items such as phones, hearing aids, watches, lighters, matches, cigarettes, nylons, wigs, ointments, makeup, lipstick, balm, hairspray, hair dressings, synthetic materials, or hard contact lenses, etc. Anything that creates static in any way should be kept out of the chamber. Patients are asked to remove their shoes before the session, as well.
We will provide you with hyperbaric approved scrubs to change into for each treatment. However, underwear items with metal, such as under wire bras, can be worn as long as cotton clothing covers them.
This is to reduce the risk of possible buildup of static electricity. If you have a wound dressing of any kind, the technician must examine it before you enter the chamber. Also, please refrain from the use of strong odor-producing deodorants, perfumes/colognes or essential oils. Please be considerate of the patients after you.
As a general rule, do not take anything into the chamber unless your technician has told you it is safe.
Patients are advised not to have carbonated drinks or alcohol for at least 4 hours prior to the treatment. Also, you should not smoke during your program. Both of these interfere with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen.
Good nutrition is important for wound healing. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and some carbonated drinks have similar negative effects like smoking. These are vasoconstrictors that can cause complications during treatment and decrease the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed and transported.
Smoking, Nicotine, and HBOT
There is broad understanding of the impact of smoking and the potential of lung cancer. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment while smoking is problematic for several reasons. It is a vasoconstrictor which can cut off blood supply and reduce the amount of oxygen getting to your tissues. It also releases a large amount of nicotine chemicals into the blood stream that delay and prevent healing.
When a cigarette is smoked, a large amount of nicotine is released into the blood stream which results in maximum constriction of the blood vessels. This, in turn, reduces blood supply to the arms and legs. This condition lasts for several hours, even though the pleasant effect of nicotine smokers experience may last only a few minutes.
For most patients, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is helping encourage new blood vessel growth in areas where there is poor blood exchange resulting in slow healing.
Nicotine is so powerful that it may block attempts to deliver healing levels of oxygen. If patients are long-term smokers, this habit must be suspended during hyperbaric oxygen therapy. There are effective means of intervening, which are readily available and must be employed prior to a patient being considered for a program of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
With HBOT, we are trying to build new blood vessels. Nicotine works against this therapy. To enjoy positive results with hyperbarics, it is highly recommended that you stop all nicotine consumption before starting treatment. If you continue to use nicotine, you run the risk of not receiving the full benefits; treatment might take longer, or it might not work at all.
If you opt to continue smoking, please note that smoke and other odors on your clothes are accentuated within the confines of the pressurized chamber. Try to minimize the effect of smoking while receiving treatment by abstaining within two hours pre- and post-treatment.
There are 14 indications that are approved to be treated by the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Committee:
1. Air or gas embolism – when gas bubbles enter arteries or veins
2. Carbon monoxide poisoning – when carbon monoxide is inhaled and injuries arise from that
3. Clostridial myositis and myonecrosis – a rapidly progressive infection of the soft tissue, known commonly as “gas gangrene”
4. Crush injury, compartment syndrome, and other acute traumatic ischemias – injuries that result from trauma, from minor contusions to limb threatening damage
5. Decompression sickness – referred to as the “bends,” is the formation of inert gas bubbles in tissue, usually caused by rapid ascent from a dive.
6. Arterial insufficiencies – wounds that are not healing properly
7. Severe anemia – a loss of red blood cell mass due to hemorrhage, hemolysis, or aplasia
8. Intracranial abscess – an inflammation caused from infected material coming from local or remote infectious sources
9. Necrotizing soft tissue infections – a rare but severe type of bacterial infection that can cause tissue death
10. Osteomyelitis – an infection of bone or bone marrow
11. Delayed radiation injury (soft tissue and bony necrosis) – some radiation treatments leave patients with cell damage to soft tissue (such as mouth, throat, and the gastrointestinal tract).
12. Compromised grafts and flaps – when a skin graft does not heal properly
13. Acute thermal burn injury – severe burns that can be treated with enhanced oxygen
14. Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss – hearing loss caused by a malfunction in a certain nerve in the brain
and Hyperbaric Medicine Society has recommended hyperbaric oxygen treatments for several disease states. Medicare and private insurers, to a greater degree, have accepted these recommendations and will pay for HBO treatments for these indications. However, if there are any questions about insurance coverage, our billing staff can look into the matter and confirm coverage prior to starting treatments.
Basically, much of the technology and information that we currently use in clinical hyperbaric oxygen therapy was developed by the world’s navies during World War Two as a result of the development of military divers and underwater demolitions.
In addition, many of the pioneers of hyperbaric medicine were from a military background, and many current practitioners became interested in hyperbaric medicine through diving-related experiences. Thus, this diving-related terminology continues to be used even though clinical hyperbaric practice has evolved away from it’s underwater beginnings.
Yes, chambers are classified into three categories: Class A, B, C
Class A-Multiplace chambers
Multiplace chambers are designed to accommodate two or more patients. Some of these chambers are massive and can hold 20 or more people. Thus, they require a large physical space and significant infrastructure to operate, and can be very expensive to acquire, maintain, and staff. The advantages are that they allow for an inside attendant so full access to all patients is possible, which makes caring for very ill patients easier. Also, their size tends to minimize claustrophobia in susceptible patients.
Class B-Monoplace chambers
Monoplace chambers are defined as a chamber that is designed to accommodate only one patient at a time. Generally, these consist of an acrylic tube with a door at one end through which the patient is inserted into the chamber. They can be compressed with either air or oxygen.
Class C-Animal chambers
Class C chambers are used in veterinary medicine. They can be compressed with AIR or Oxygen. They are most commonly used in cancer treatment of pets, recovery of race horses and clinical research. Humans cannot go in class C chambers.
mHBOT chambers-Mild chambers
Not classified by the NFPA are mHBOT chambers. mHBOT chambers are unable to reach clinical treatment depths. mHBOT chambers are the soft sided chambers that reach a maximum treatment depth of 1.3 ATA (10fsw) despite claiming the ability to reach 1.4ATA; 1.4 ATA is their failure pressure. Clinical benefits start at 1.5 ATA or 16.5fsw, with most all treatment protocols in the 2.0 ATA (33fsw) to 3.0 ATA (66fsw). mHBOT chambers were designed and approved for altitude sickness only. Being inflatable allows for easy deployment and use by EMS in mountain terrain. Use caution with mHBOT chambers as they still pose fire and pressure related injury risks. In addition, they are seldom operated by properly trained and certified professionals.
The octopus requires nearly 4 times the amount of oxygen (11%)than other fish and mollusks (average of 3%). They actually have 3 hearts, 2 of which are dedicated to pump blood through their gills just for oxygenation. Unlike humans and other vertebrates that use iron in their blood to transport oxygen (hemoglobin), octopus use copper (hemocyanin). The hemocyanin allows oxygen to stay bonded in low oxygen environments like extremely cold waters. Hemocyanin also gives the blood a unique blue hue. These oxygen adaptations make for the perfect hyperbaric mascot.