What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a safe, non-invasive modality that increases oxygen levels throughout the entire body. While in a hyperbaric chamber, a patient breathes pressurized oxygen. There are a wide variety of hyperbaric chambers, which can deliver different levels of pressure and different levels of oxygen. Soft sided chambers reach 1.3. Atmospheres Absolute (ATA), or close to the equivalent of 11 feet under water. These can operate with ambient air, which contains 19-21% oxygen or they can operate with oxygen concentrators to increase the level. High pressure chambers can reach much higher pressures, but typically treat up to 3 ATA and can utilize ambient air all the way up to 100% oxygen levels.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy works based on 2 main laws of physics: Henry’s Law and Boyle’s Law. Henry’s Law states that at a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid. In essence, pressure is required for a gas (oxygen) to effectively dissolve into a liquid (blood plasma). When inside a hyperbaric environment, greater levels of oxygen are able to reach deep into the tissues of the body.
Boyle’s Law states that when temperature is constant, the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure and the density of a gas is directly proportional to the pressure. As pressure increases, the size of oxygen molecules decrease, creating a denser oxygen environment. Oxygen molecules in the alveolus (lung membrane) become more concentrated and make it possible for more oxygen molecules to be transferred to the blood by diffusion, which saturates the blood plasma.
We all know that oxygen is the foundation for life; every single cell in our body requires oxygen in order to keep every bodily process functioning properly. Oxygen is carried throughout the body via the circulatory system, specifically within the red blood cells. Prolonged lack of oxygen equals death. Many people don’t realize that oxygen can be depleted or blocked in small, localized areas of the body. If trauma occurs to tissue, whether from injury, infection, or stress, the inflammatory process will work to respond to the wounded area by encasing it with fluid and calling up the immune system to work on recovering the wound. While the inflammatory process is a necessary action in the healing process, it can also inadvertently cause more harm to surrounding tissues. The swelling caused by fluid buildup puts pressure on blood vessels that run through the injured area. This pressure can lead to narrowing or complete blockage of blood flow. If adequate blood flow can’t reach the injury, there will not be enough oxygen delivery to help the cells rebuild and recover the damaged tissue.
Inflammation is well known to be the main trigger of symptoms for most diseases, and without enough oxygen, inflammation can’t be easily controlled. Oxygen is one of the main natural anti-inflammatories our body utilizes to heal injuries. Oxygen is able to upregulate anti-inflammatory gene markers and downregulate inflammatory gene markers. Dr. Dan Rossignol, MD, has found that 1 hour of oxygen delivery via hyperbaric chamber has the same anti-inflammatory power as 12,000mg of Motrin. Because the higher pressure of a hyperbaric chamber dissolves oxygen into the plasma, the circulatory system is able to deliver several times more oxygen to stressed or damaged tissue, from the brain all the way down to the toes. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of oxygen, there are almost 200 conditions that hyperbarics has been used for with success from sports recovery all the way to severe traumatic brain injury.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been shown to:
Reduce inflammation due to injury, disease or infection
Reduce recovery times from injuries and surgical procedures
Create new blood vessels (Angiogenesis)
Kill anaerobic (oxygen hating) bacteria, viruses, cancerous cells
Stimulate stem cell growth
Correct genetic markers (Epigenetics)
Detoxify organs and tissues
Support the immune system