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Published on 3/26/2020 additional information available

What is oxygen therapy?

#How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work

There are two types of oxygen therapy, Normobaric and Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Both provide supplemental saturated oxygen, however, Normobaric delivers 40%-100% saturated oxygen at the same pressure level as the atmosphere and Hyperbaric delivers 100% saturated oxygen at pressure 1,5 to 3 times higher than atmospheric pressures. 

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work?” you may ask. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is administered in a high pressure room or chamber where a patient breathes pure oxygen. They lie in the room or chamber and breathe in the 100% oxygen. Because the patient is breathing in pure oxygen at a high pressure, more oxygen is taken in. Blood carries this oxygen through the body to a cellular level which helps to fight bacteria and stimulates the release of substances such as growth factors and stem cells which promote healing. A session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. 

During a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session you will need to remove all your clothing 

and wear a 100% cotton medical gown. You must relax and breathe normally during the treatment. Often you are able to watch TV or listen to music. Your therapist is always on hand for you to speak to. Once the treatment starts your ears may pop and you may feel mild discomfort. After the treatment technicians slowly depressurize the chamber.

There are plenty of benefits from oxygen therapy but it is particularly beneficial for those who suffer from a lack of oxygen due to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy eases their shortness of breath, increases their stamina, improves their quality of life and their survival rate goes up. It also serves as an effective treatment for the symptoms of these conditions such as headaches, irritability fatigue and swollen ankles. 

For most people suffering with chronic lung disease supplemental oxygen is needed when oxygen saturation falls below 89 percent during rest, activity or sleep. To receive oxygen therapy you will need to get a prescription from your doctor. The doctor will do a blood gas study and evaluate your lifestyle to determine which oxygen therapy is best for you and how much oxygen you need. 

Oxygen therapy is used for treating the following:

•    chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

•    pneumonia

•    asthma

•    bronchopulmonary dysplasia, underdeveloped lungs in newborns

•    heart failure

•    cystic fibrosis

•    sleep apnea

•    lung disease

•    trauma to the respiratory system

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also used in the diving community to treat decompression sickness and by professional sports men and women to increase their stamina improve their performance. It is also often used for people with sleeping or mood disorders.

Many doctors prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy for wounds as it heals the wound from the inside out which means that the healing process is accelerated. Between 10%-20% of general wounds can be treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It greatly reduces swelling, increases the construction of new blood vessels. 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is ideal for treating the following types of wounds:

•    Radiation injurie

•    Chronic refractory osteomyelitis

•    Infections

•    Burns

•    Certain skin grafts and flaps

•    Crush injuries

•    Diabetes related wounds

Other oxygen therapy benefits include increased energy levels, improved endurance during exercise, better recovery from physical exertion, relief from stress and pollution, increased concentration, and it also eases headaches and hangovers.

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