Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
(Hyperbaric Oxygenation; Hyperbarics; Hyperbaric Medicine; HBOT; HBO2)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing 100% oxygen in a sealed chamber. In the chamber, oxygen levels and pressure are higher than normal. This can help improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the body's tissues.
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure has been used to treat many health problems, such as:
- An air bubble (embolism) that blocks a blood vessel
- Decompression sickness
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Wound healing
- Radiation therapy injuries
- Skin grafts, flaps, or burns
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Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The care team may advise:
- Comfortable clothes
- A book or activity to do in the chamber
Description of the Procedure
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 slowly pressurize the chamber with 100% oxygen. You will be able to talk to this person. While in the chamber, you will be instructed to:
- Relax and breathe normally.
- Tell the technician if your ears pop or you have discomfort. The pressure may be lowered.
- Swallow or blow with your nose pinched—to ease discomfort.
- Place a clear plastic hood or mask over your head—when the pressure is right. This will deliver oxygen to you.
Some are at high risk for oxygen toxicity. If so, they may be able to breathe normal air for brief periods.
How Long Will It Take?
½ hour to 2 hours
Will It Hurt?
There should not be any pain. Some have fullness in the ears.
Average Hospital Stay
Most can go home the same day. Those with other conditions may need to stay longer.
For most, there is no special care after treatment.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not feeling well or have:
- Discomfort or pain in your sinuses or ears
- Onset of seizures
- Vision problems
- Problems breathing or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Divers Alert Network
Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: A guide for patients and providers. University of Iowa Health Care website. Available at: https://uihc.org/health-topics/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy-guide-patients-and-providers. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for critical care in adults - acute indications. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy-for-critical-care-in-adults-acute-indications. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for wound healing. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy-for-wound-healing. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Kirby JP, Snyder J, et al. Essentials of hyperbaric oxygen therapy: 2019 review. Mo Med. 2019;116(3):176-179.
Recompression therapy. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/injury-during-diving-or-work-in-compressed-air/recompression-therapy. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2021