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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment using the administration of 100% oxygen under pressure in a pressure chamber for the treatment of certain conditions which benefit from the delivery of extra oxygen. Conditions recognized by the medical establishment for treatment with HBOT are:

  • Air or Gas Embolism
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Acute Traumatic Injuries Resulting in Loss of Blood Supply to Organs
  • Cyanide Poisoning
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Enhancement of Healing in Selected Problem Wounds
  • Selected Refractory Anaerobic Infections
  • Exceptional Blood Loss Anemia
  • Gas Gangrene
  • Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections (when tissue is dying)
  • Osteomyelitis (infection of bone) Not Responding to Standard Treatment
  • Radiation Necrosis (death) of Bone and/or Soft Tissue (e.g. radiation "therapy")
  • Surgical Skin Grafts or Flaps Not Receiving Enough Oxygen and in Danger of Failing
  • Thermal (heat, i.e. non-radiation) Burns

Other uses of HBOT include the following:

  • Cerebral Edema
  • Migraine
  • Gas Gangrene
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Poisoning
  • Cyanide Poisoning
  • Near Drowning
  • Plastic Surgery (to accelerate recovery)
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Acute Peripheral Arterial Insufficiency

HBOT is generally used as an adjunctive therapy. HBOT does not compete with or replace other treatment methods. HBOT) in a wide range of conditions, many of which are now covered by Medicare. Patients are placed inside a sealed hyperbaric chamber compartment, breathing oxygen through a mask, for approximately an hour and a half to two hours, five to seven days a week under medical supervision.

The original uses of HBOT was for decompression sickness or "the bends," (because the victim bends over in pain) which occurs when a diver surfaces to quickly and nitrogen compressed into the liquid state at depth expands to the gaseous state forming bubbles in tissue and blood vessels. These bubbles when located in tissue can compress adjacent blood vessels, and when located inside blood vessels can block blood flow, resulting in multiple stroke-like manifestations, even death. In decompression sickness, hyperbaric oxygen forces the nitrogen back into the liquid state and then gradual decompression allows the diver to breathe the nitrogen off as he would under normal gradual surfacing conditions.

The use of HBOT has now been expanded to include all conditions which can be helped by a temporary increase in available oxygen to tissue. Gangrene results from inadequate oxygen reaching dying tissue. Temporarily increasing oxygen delivery allows for formation of new blood vessels and permanent benefit. Also, blood cells which fight bacterial infections are made more efficient if their oxygen supply is restored.

More than 500,00 Americans are affected by stroke each year, which is the third leading cause of death. Two million Americans are enduring crippling disabilities from stoke. Approximately 67,000 amputations are performed each year among diabetics from gangrenous wounds. Clearly there is need for more wide-spread use of HBOT.

In cases of stroke, it is well known that some recovery (sometimes even complete recovery) of function is possible with the simple passage of time. This is because not all the affected brain cells are dead. Some are simply too damaged to function, but as blood supply returns, they resume their normal functioning. However, this recovery is not a certainty. By delivery of extra oxygen and through the formation of new blood vessels this process is accelerated and potentiated. For the best result the stroke victim must receive HBOT as quickly as possible after the stroke event.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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