Diabetes

How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Can Help with Healing

By delivering more oxygen to a patient’s body, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help them heal better and more quickly. Our experts share how the process works and whom it can benefit.

Sep. 23, 2022 5   min read

Treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber has a futuristic look to it. For some patients, it may be overwhelming at first glance.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a common and safe treatment for a variety of health conditions, ranging from chronic diabetic foot ulcers to burn injuries.

Joseph Canzoneri, DPM, is a podiatric surgeon with Rochester Regional Health and explains how the therapy works, who can benefit from it, and what patients can expect when they begin treatment.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a medically recognized treatment method that helps to distribute pure oxygen throughout a patient’s body to help them heal from an injury or condition.

This type of therapy is administered in a clear acrylic chamber. Once a patient is inside, the chamber is filled with 100 percent pure oxygen at higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure.

As the amount of oxygen entering a patient’s body increases, it can pass more quickly through the blood and help promote the growth of new tissue and blood vessels. This allows the body to better distribute oxygen to areas of the body that need healing.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is considered an adjunctive therapy,” Dr. Canzoneri said. “This therapy is not a treatment that is done on its own; it is often combined with other methods of care – including wound and infection management.”

Conditions

Wound care providers work with patients who are referred by primary care providers, plastic surgeons, oncology providers, and many others, according to Dr. Canzoneri.

A variety of conditions are treated using hyperbaric oxygen therapy, such as:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Radiation injuries
  • Necrotizing bone infections
  • Compromised or failed skin grafts
  • Crush injuries
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

Patient eligibility

Before beginning hyperbaric oxygen therapy, our wound care providers will consult with the patient’s primary care provider about the process and treatment plan.

“We require a thorough examination with one of our wound care providers before beginning this therapy,” Dr. Canzoneri said.

If a patient is living with one of the conditions listed above, their provider needs to review their medical and family history, and physical condition – including their heart and lung function – before determining.

Any patient being considered for hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also required to have been treated for at least 30 days with other techniques (e.g., medication, alternate therapies) prior to being considered for this therapy.

Side effects or risks

One of the most common questions asked about hyperbaric oxygen therapy is whether there are any side effects.

The most frequently felt symptom is pressure in the ears, similar to changes in altitude while flying on a plane. If this is a problem for the patient, the technician in the room can alter the pressure during treatment to make them feel more comfortable.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not painful.

Patients who have the following conditions or devices should discuss the potential risks of this therapy with their primary care provider:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • COPD
  • Older pacemaker models

What to expect

Before the therapy begins, each patient will take part in an orientation process to make sure they are fully informed of the process.

Providers will check to make sure every patient is continuing any medications or additional therapies (e.g., antibiotics, glycemia control, vascular optimization) that will help the process be as successful as possible.

Once a patient arrives, they will change into a gown and lay on a stretcher. Patients are advised to use the restroom before beginning treatment. From there, they will be brought to the hyperbaric chamber for treatment.

Certain items are not allowed in the chamber due to the combustibility of 100 percent pure oxygen being administered in the chamber. A partial list includes:

  • Deodorant
  • Hairspray
  • Lotions
  • Acrylic nails
  • Jewelry
  • Cell phones

One session in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber lasts approximately two hours. A television is mounted outside the chamber so patients can watch television programs or movies of their choosing during their treatment. Some patients will bring music to which they can listen. Others simply use to the time to rest.

Patients who undergo this therapy will need to have 30-40 sessions that are conducted five days a week.

A hyperbaric oxygen therapy technician is in the room with patients at all times so they can talk with one another as needed. The patient is constantly being monitored by the technician, as well. The temperature inside the chamber is adjustable in case any changes for comfort are needed. Patients who feel claustrophobic can be given medication to help as needed.

If a patient needs to use the restroom during a therapy session, they can discuss the timing of a visit with the technician.

“From the first treatment to the last one, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a safe and reliable therapy for those who need it,” Dr. Canzoneri said.

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Joseph R. Canzoneri, DPM
Wound Care, Podiatry
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