Every human needs oxygen to survive. Oxygen is a part of the air we breathe. Our body uses oxygen to create the energy it needs to carry on processes essential to living such as walking, thinking, and breathing. Without oxygen, life would cease in less than 10 minutes
The air we breathe is 21% oxygen. In normal situations, the air that we breathe typically provides enough oxygen for both normal body metabolism and repair to tissue damage after injury or illness.
However when we increase the pressure surrounding a patient in a hyperbaric chamber and use 100% oxygen can allow a very significant increase in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the bloodstream. This is in addition to the oxygen carried by hemoglobin. The increased concentration means that the gradient for the transport of free oxygen from blood into the tissues is increased 10 fold.
When tissues are damaged the capillaries within the tissues are also damaged which increases the distances for oxygen to diffuse. This can lead to a severe oxygen deficit in the tissues even when the amount of oxygen carried in the blood is normal. The object of using the increase in pressure and oxygen concentration is to raise tissue oxygen values towards normal to initiate normal cellular repair mechanisms. In fact oxygen, like glucose and water is an essential substrate.
How does HBOT work?
The patient spends about one hour per session in a hyperbaric chamber, breathing pure oxygen under pressure which saturates the body’s tissues and reaches damaged areas that had lacked blood supply and oxygen. With repeated treatments, the oxygen flow stimulates the body’s healing processes and allows most patients to experience rapid recovery of cognitive and neurological functioning without surgery or drugs.
Breathing oxygen under pressure has long been used to treat scuba divers suffering from “bends” (decompression sickness). The FDA has approved HBOT for about 14 medical conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning, air embolism, non-healing wounds, burns, and crush injury. More than 150 successful “off–label” treatments are now being documented in the US and internationally. HBOT can be used to treat traumatic brain injuries and concussions with a doctor’s prescription.
HBOT is a rapidly evolving branch of medicine which is now beginning to generate interest due to highly successful outcomes in cases of TBI and concussion. Notably, military veterans and athletes who have experienced serious complications due to heavy reliance on habit-forming pain relievers have turned their lives around after HBOT treatments.