Treatment using hyperbaric oxygen therapy begins in a pressurized room where you breathe pure oxygen. This method of therapy is known for being successful in the treatment of decompression sickness which can occur during scuba diving. Other successful treatments include: serious infections, bubbles of air in blood vessels, diabetes or radiation related injuries or wounds that are stubborn healers, etc.

The pressurized setting in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room allows for the air pressure to be increased up to three times the amount of a standard room. When this happens, your lungs are capable of gathering up to three times more oxygen than they would in standard pressure.

When higher pure oxygen levels are breathed and carried through the bloodstream, your body stimulates substances known as growth factors and stem cells, promoting healing.

Why it is done

Without the proper oxygen supply to your body’s tissues, functioning is minimized or halted. When injury occurs, tissue needs more oxygen in order to survive. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases your bloods capacity for carrying oxygen. The result of increased blood oxygen normalizes levels for a time promoting healing and infection fighting in tissue.

There are many medical conditions that may be treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Treatment options vary depending upon the medical institution. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be suggested by your doctor if you suffer from one of the following:

·        Bubbles of air in your blood vessels (arterial gas embolism)

·        Decompression sickness

·        Carbon monoxide poisoning

·        A wound that won't heal

·        A crushing injury

·        Gangrene

·        Skin or bone infection that causes tissue death

·        Radiation injuries

·        Burns

·        Skin grafts or skin flaps at risk of tissue death

·        Severe anemia

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is still being researched to determine the medical conditions through which it may treat. So far, there is little scientific evidence to support the treatment of the following conditions:

·        Allergies

·        Arthritis

·        Autism

·        Cancer

·        Cerebral palsy

·        Chronic fatigue syndrome

·        Cirrhosis

·        Fibromyalgia

·        Gastrointestinal ulcers

·        Stroke


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered a safe procedure with rare reports of complications, however, as with most medical procedures, there are risks including:

•        Temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by increased blood oxygen levels

•        Middle ear and inner ear injuries, including leaking fluid and eardrum rupture, due to increased air pressure

•        Organ damage caused by air pressure changes (barotrauma)

•        Seizures as a result of too much oxygen (oxygen toxicity) in your central nervous system

What Can You Expect

There is no hospitalization required with hyperbaric oxygen therapy as it is considered an outpatient procedure. If you are already hospitalized, your hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment may be conducted in the hospital. In the event that your therapy procedure cannot be completed in the hospital, you may be transported to and from the secondary location.

There are two settings in which you may undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment, depending on your medical institution. These settings are:

•        A unit designed for one person. In an individual (monoplace) unit, you lie down on a padded table that slides into a clear plastic tube about 7 feet long.

•        A room designed to accommodate several people. In multi-person hyperbaric oxygen rooms - which usually look like a hospital waiting room inside - you may sit or lie down. A lightweight, clear hood may be placed over your head to deliver the oxygen to you, or you may wear a mask over your face to receive the oxygen.

During your treatment you may experience a full or “popping” sensation in your ears similar to what you might expect at high altitudes. This discomfort is caused by the increased air pressure and can generally be relieved by yawning.

You can expect treatment to last 1-2 hours. You will be monitored by healthcare professionals throughout the procedure.

After hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Immediately following treatment, you may feel lightheaded. This is normal and will subside shortly, allowing you to resume normal function.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy will require more than one session to optimize success. The total number of treatments will depend upon your condition. For example, carbon monoxide poisoning may only require three or more visits, whereas non-healing wounds may require 25-30 visits.

Decompression sickness, arterial gas embolism and severe carbon monoxide poisoning can be effectively treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone

Other conditions may require a combination of hyperbaric oxygen therapy alongside other treatment options and therapies as your condition and doctor see fit.