Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing 100% oxygen in a sealed chamber. This concentration is 5 times higher than the normal air we breathe. The chamber is also pressurized to create 1.5 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. These changes can improve blood circulation and the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen to the body.
This procedure has been used to treat many health problems, including:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
You will lie down on a padded table, which slides into a tube. This is called a single-person chamber. In some cases, the chamber may be large, holding more than a dozen people.
A technician will gradually pressurize the chamber with 100% oxygen. You will be able to talk to this person.
While in the chamber, you will be instructed to:
If you are at high risk for oxygen toxicity, you may be allowed to breathe regular air for brief periods.
Over a period of several minutes, the technician will slowly depressurize the chamber. You will likely have some ear popping and feel light-headed and tired. However, you should be able to go back to your daily activities. You may have more than one session over a period of several days.
½ hour to 2 hours
You will not have any pain. Your ears may feel full.
Unless you have another medical condition, you will be able to go home after HBOT.
In most cases, there is no special care after treatment.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Divers Alert Network
The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society
Gill AL, et al. Hyperbaric oxygen: Its uses, mechanisms of action and outcomes. QJM. 2004;97:385.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy. Updated April 14, 2011. Accessed November 3, 2014.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. University of Iowa Hospital and Clinicswebsite. Available at:
http://www.uihealthcare.org/hyperbaricmedicine. Accessed November 3, 2014.
Recompression therapy. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/injury_during_diving_or_work_in_compressed_air/recompression_therapy.html. Updated September 2013. Accessed November 3, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
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