How Do Hyperbaric Chambers Work Exactly?

Hyperbaric chamber therapy, also called hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT, is a medical treatment that improves your body’s natural healing ability.

The treatment was first used in the U.S. in the early 1900s and later used to treat decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Today, HBOT is used by many medical facilities for treating various conditions.

While the treatment can be highly affected, if you are unfamiliar with it, you may wonder, how do hyperbaric chambers work? Keep reading to find out.

How HBOT Works

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is conducted in a “chamber.” While these chambers are commonly found in medical facilities, you can also shop hyperbaric chambers and have one installed at your home.

Once inside the chamber, you breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. While decompression sickness is one way this treatment is used, it can treat many other conditions, too, such as:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Gas gangrene
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Infection of a bone
  • Crush injuries
  • Flesh-eating disease
  • Traumatic or acute inadequate blood flow in your arteries
  • Delayed radiation injury
  • Compromised skin flaps or grafts
  • Diabetic wounds that don’t heal properly
  • Actinomycosis
  • Gas or air bubble trapped in blood vessels

When you are in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased two or three times the normal air pressure. With these conditions, your lungs gather more oxygen than what you breathe in normal pressure levels.

As the oxygen circulates through your body, it helps fight bacteria and encourages the release of stem cells and growth factors that help increase healing.

What Happens in Your Body During and After HBOT?

The benefits of HBOT are seen during and after your time in the chamber. Some of the things that happen are described here.

The Spread of Oxygen-Rich Plasma

HBOT encourages the faster healing of wounds by taking oxygen-rich plasma to tissue in your body that is starved for oxygen.

If you have a wound injury, it causes damage to your blood vessels. This releases fluid, which leaks into your tissues and results in swelling.

The swelling keeps damaged cells from receiving needed oxygen, and the tissue begins to die.

With HBOT, swelling is reduced because the affected tissues are flooded with oxygen. The chamber’s elevated pressure increases the total amount of oxygen present in your blood.

Prevents “Reperfusion Injuries”

Reperfusion injuries refer to severe tissue damage if the blood supply returns to the tissues after they are deprived of oxygen. If a crush injury impacts blood flow, for example, the events inside your damaged cells will cause the release of oxygen radicals.

These cause damage to your tissues that cannot be reversed, resulting in the blood vessels “clamping up” and halting blood flow.

With HBOT, the oxygen radical scavengers in your body find the issue (i.e., problem areas) and ensure healing can continue.

Blocks Impact of Harmful Bacteria

HBOT works to disable the toxins of some bacteria. It will increase oxygen concentration in your tissues, too.

When this happens, the treatment helps the tissue resist infection. After the therapy, your white blood cells are more capable of finding and destroying invaders.

Formation of New Collagen and New Skin Cells

With HBOT, new connective tissue and skin cells are formed. This is done by encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.

It also works to stimulate cells, which produce some substances, such as vascular endothelial growth factor. These work to attract and encourage the growth of endothelial cells, which are needed for proper healing.

Potential Risks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Overall, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered a safe procedure. Complications of this are rare; however, the treatment does have some level of risk.

Some of the risks include:

  • Middle ear injuries
  • Temporary nearsightedness
  • Lung collapse
  • Seizures
  • Reduced blood sugar
  • Fire

If you receive the treatment from a professional medical provider, most risks are reduced or eliminated; however, it’s still important to know the risks before seeking this treatment.

Preparing for HBOT

You should shower before your HBOT treatment and avoid wearing any deodorant, hair spray, perfumes, or other styling products. No jewelry or wigs can be worn in the chamber.

You should avoid carbonated drinks and alcohol at least four hours before your treatment.

If you are a smoker, you will be encouraged to quit smoking for the time period you are receiving treatment since tobacco products can hinder your body’s ability to move oxygen.

You can minimize problems with sinuses and ears; using techniques like swallowing and yawning will be encouraged. In some situations, tubes are put in the ears to reduce the issues caused by pressure in your ears during the treatment.

After your HBOT treatment, there are no dietary or activity limitations that you are required to follow.

Now You Know: How Do Hyperbaric Chambers Work?

Now that you know the answer to “how do hyperbaric chambers work,” you can decide for yourself if this is something that would benefit you. If you aren’t sure, speak to your doctor, who can provide you with more information about the treatment.

HBOT is used more commonly today than ever before and is a viable treatment for many conditions and concerns. Understanding how it works and what it can do is the first step in determining if it may benefit you.

To find more helpful resources and information, be sure to check out some of the other blogs on our site. We post new information daily to help you stay informed.

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