Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, HBOT, was first set up in the year 1662 to address respiratory problems in patients. Later in 1940s, HBOT was used as a standard to treat military divers in the United States when they suffer from DCI, decompression illness. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States has approved HBOT for 13 conditions and it is in the process of approving HBOT for more.
A brief background on Decompression Illness
Divers who go deep into the sea or ocean feel the pressure of water on their bodies. As the pressure increases on the body, the oxygen and nitrogen present in the air they breathe dissolves more into the blood. As they return to the surface, the pressure on the body steadily decreases. The excess oxygen that is dissolved in the blood doesn’t cause any problem but the nitrogen starts forming bubbles in the blood and in the muscles. The formation of these bubbles will be faster if the divers quickly return to the surface of water.
Formation of bubbles in the muscles compresses the blood vessels and obstruct the blood flow to other parts of the body causing fatigue, pain in muscles, joints, difficulty speaking etc. In order to prevent such a condition, as the divers return to the surface, they are put in a HBOT chamber where the atmospheric pressure is higher and the pressure is gradually dropped to match the normal atmospheric pressure. That way, the formation of nitrogen bubbles can be avoided using HBOT.
What are the conditions that FDA has approved HBOT for?
The FDA approved Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to treat:
- Decompression Illness, also called divers’ disease or the bends or aerobullosis or caisson disease.
- Air or gas embolism
- Anemia due to severe blood loss
- Treatment of brain and sinus infections
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Thermal burns (burns caused due to fire or heat)
- Skin grafts (Skin grafting is done during several medical procedures including plastic surgery)
- Necrotizing soft tissue infections
- Bone marrow infection called Osteomyelitis
- Low blood flow in the arteries called ‘Arterial Insufficiency’
- Acute Traumatic Ischemia (ATI)
- Gas gangrene
- Radiation injuries such as those caused during chemotherapy etc
Several studies have shown that HBOT has been to help patients heal from the above mentioned conditions faster when used in combination with regular treatment procedures.
Conditions for which FDA has not approved HBOT yet
FDA is still considering treatment of several other medical conditions using HBOT but has not given any approval yet despite having enough evidences. Such conditions include:
- Bell’s palsy
- HIV Treatment
- Heart diseases
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease etc.
Are there any side effects of HBOT?
Like any other procedure, HBOT has its side effects though very rare. They include:
- Pain and damage to ears, sinuses, eyes, teeth and lungs.
- Claustrophobia (when the patient enters a closed chamber)
- Increase in blood pressure
- Decrease in blood glucose levels
- Pulmonary oedema / edema
- Collapsed lung
- Changes in vision.
Your doctor will be the right person to tell you if you need to undergo HBOT for any of the medical conditions you may have. You will also be advised with the interval and the number of sessions that you need to undergo to heal faster safely. Most important of all, if you are looking for a hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic near you in Chennai or any other city, you need to make sure the hygiene that is maintained by the clinic or hospital as it is very important because of the fact that it is most often a closed space and the possibility of hosting infectious microbes is very high.