If you break down the term “hyperbaric” into its constituent Greek and Latin root words, you can easily derive its meaning:
Over, excess, or above normal.
Relating to weight of the atmosphere.
Literally translated, “hyperbaric” means high pressure. Therefore, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a therapeutic treatment that involves inhaling oxygen at higher than normal pressure.
More specifically, HBOT involves breathing medical grade oxygen (99.0% by volume) in a high pressure environment, like a hyperbaric chamber.
HBOT Has Two Components:
HBOT involves the patient breathing medical grade oxygen through a mask or hood. Since oxygen is considered a drug by the FDA, patients must obtain a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional for these therapeutic treatments.
Normal atmospheric pressure (at sea level) is 1 atmosphere (1 atm). Patients receive HBOT in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber. During treatment, the chamber pressure gradually increases to about 2 – 2.5 x normal atmospheric pressure (2 – 2.5 ATA).
Physiological & Pharmacological Effects of HBOT
Bypasses blood vessels in damaged tissues by inducing the formation of new ones; improving the circulation, oxygenation, and perfusion of regular and deficient tissues.
Maximizes Oxygen Transport
Allows for 100% saturation of hemoglobin molecules. Additional O2 molecules then dissolve directly into the plasma (the fluid component of blood) for transport.
Preserves, Repairs, & Enhances Cellular Functions
Boosts cellular metabolism, promotes rapid cell reproduction, and enhances collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein in connective tissues like skin.
Prevents Further Cellular Damage
Preserves the integrity of blood vessel cells. This cellular protection helps improve blood flow to tissues and organs when damaged by conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
Increases Amount of Oxygen in the Blood
Stimulates development of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels as well as the natural development of new blood vessels.
Enhances Anti-Microbial Function
Enhances the exchange of certain antibiotic molecules across cells, promoting the body's response to bacterial infection.
Reduces Inflammation & Swelling
Suppresses the cellular activity of the immune system which triggers swelling when an injury or damage to the body occurs. While this reaction is meant to start healing and protect from injury it can result in secondary injury, pain, and prolonged recovery time.
Accelerates Wound Healing
Increases production of nitric oxide in the bone marrow and microvasculature (smaller blood vessels). Stimulates stem cells from the bone marrow, accelerating wound healing. Dilation of smaller blood vessels enhances blood flow to areas of local tissue damage, hypoxia, and ischemia.