In 1662, a British clergyman and physician called Henshaw came up with the idea to use pressure to treat people suffering from certain respiratory diseases. He believed that breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room could help patients heal and with that belief, he built the very first hyperbaric chamber—a sealed room with valves and bellows.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has come a long way since then and is now being used to treat everything from air embolism to thermal burns, and even traumatic brain injuries. In the 1940s, HBOT actually became standard treatment for military divers in the US suffering from decompression sickness, which occurs if a diver surfaces too quickly.
However, despite the fact that hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been around for a while, not a lot of people know how it works and what exactly it is. With this in mind, the Neuroscience Center team thought it best to explain a bit better the story behind this groundbreaking therapy.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?
The one thing to remember before we go into more detail about HBOT is this: our bodies need oxygen to work. We don’t think about it, because we breathe it on a daily basis, but it’s why we also forget (or don’t know) that additional oxygen can help damaged tissue in our bodies heal.
Using pure, 100% oxygen under increased pressure allows that additional oxygen to be taken up by our bloodstream and dissolved at a far greater rate. That extra oxygen then enhances our tissue function and helps our bodies fight e.g. infection that’s been slowing down our healing.
When you enter the hyperbaric chamber, this pure oxygen comes in at pressures 1.5 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure, which helps us absorb up to 20 times more oxygen, which ultimately speeds up both the healing and recovery time of damaged tissues.
Depending on the level of damage, a doctor determines how many sessions you need. One session can last anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
What Are the Benefits of HBOT?
Aside from helping divers with decompression sickness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been known to heal thermal burns, radiation injuries, carbon monoxide poisoning, anemia due to severe blood loss, and a lot more. As of late, it’s being promoted as an alternative therapy for various other conditions, as well, including Alzheimer’s disease and infertility.
Recently, the state of Arizona signed off on legislation supporting HBOT to treat veterans with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD, in the hopes of helping them get back to their old lives. HBOT is the first treatment that’s ever been shown to heal a traumatic brain injury, and it has already aided 2,300 veterans with this condition in the US.
In 2016, there were 20.6 million veterans in the US, and according to Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans take their lives on a daily basis due to serious PTSD and other brain injuries. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy brings us one step closer to making sure this becomes a thing of the past.
An affiliate clinic of The Neuroscience Center, the Hyperbaric Centers of Chicago, offers HBOT with modern medical equipment and licensed, experienced staff.
If you know someone who could benefit from HBOT, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Dr. Best and the Neuroscience Center: