What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy combines exposing a person to both increased pressure and oxygen content. When increasing external pressure around a liquid, more gasses are dissolved into the liquid. Using this principal, exposing the body to increase pressure, oxygen can be forced into the body’s cells for more efficient functions and healing.
Oxygen is the gas of life. Without it, we and most life on earth, would not survive. Oxygen is breathed into our lungs where it is exchanged and carried in the blood by hemoglobin and plasma for delivered into the body’s organs. Cells then use the oxygen to produce energy and carry out their many functions to maintain health and life.
Physiological Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
If a person is standing a sea level, they are at what is called 1 Atmosphere (ATA). The air we breathe has 21% oxygen content at this elevation. In this situation, the body’s dissolved oxygen in 100 ml of blood is .3 ml. If the atmospheric pressure is doubled to 2 Atmosphere (ATA), this is the equivalent to descending 33 feet in water, the dissolved oxygen doubles to .6 ml. This shows that increasing the pressure increases the dissolved oxygen in the blood.
If the oxygen breathed is increased from 21% to 100% while increasing pressures from 1 Atmosphere (sea level) to 2 Atmospheres (33 feet below the surface), the dissolved oxygen in the blood increases 15 fold.
By exposing the body to both increased pressure and higher percentage of oxygen breathed, oxygen is forced into the blood and body’s cells to stimulate cells functions and become more efficient in defending off pathogens and facilitate the healing process. When extra oxygen is transported to our muscles, they function more efficiently. When oxygen is present in the body, it enables white blood cells, known as “killer cells” to fend off the body’s invasion of bacteria and other microbes.
By increasing oxygen available for the cells:
1. Tissue cells can produce the energy necessary for survival, multiplication and grow.
2. Stimulates new blood vessel growth and increase active of collagen forming cells – a basic substance of healing.
3. Oxygen atoms are needed for collagen molecules
4. Nerve recovery is promoted allowing for improved transmission of signals.
5. Inhibits the growth of anaerobic bacteria which do not like oxygen.
6. Increases the ability of white blood cells to destroy microorganisms through phagocytosis.
7. Increases the potency of some antibiotics.
8. Reduces, in some cases, the amount of insulin needed in diabetics.
9. Increases the sensitivity of cells to growth factors which allow rapid tissue growth.
Brief History of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
In 1775, oxygen was first discovered by Priestley. Some 21 years later, in 1796, the first book about the medical applications was written by Beddeos and Watt. Research took place in the 1800's with decompression sickness being treated in 1937 using hyperbaric oxygen therapy. By 1938, it was used for treating leprosy and in 1942 treating carbon monoxide poisoning. During the 1950's and 1960's research continued to evaluate the effectiveness of this therapy. HBOT was used to enhance radiosensitivity of tumors, used during cardiac surgery, treatment of gas gangreen, cerebral ischemia, etc. By the 1980's HBOT was being used for many neurological conditions like spasticity in hemiplegia due to stroke.
What is Treated?
A great deal of research has been and continues to be conducted in hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This treatment’s efficacy is supported by its accepted use in many countries. In the United States, the FDA recognizes its use in the treatment of 13 different pathologies. However, the evidence based research, which seeks to apply the best available evidence gained from the scientific method to clinical decision making for the individual patient supports additional conditions which benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Some of the conditions which research supports the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
Attention Deficit Disorder
Post-Surgical Healing and Recovery
Traumatic Brain Injury
Autism in Children
Peripheral Neuropathy due to Diabetes and Chemotherapy