What is Hyperbaric Oxygen
Oxygen Transport in the Body
To understand how hyperbaric therapy (HBO)
works we must first understand how oxygen is normally distributed
throughout our bodies. Blood is the chief means of transport within the
body. It transports oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues and carbon
dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. It transports nutrients (glucose)
to the tissues and removes waste products to the kidneys and other
organs for excretion.
Blood is composed of two parts: (1) plasma,
the fluid portion, and (2) formed elements, the blood cells and
platelets suspended in the fluid. Plasma accounts for about 55 per cent
of the total volume of blood most of which is water (92%).Blood cells
and platelets , the remaining 45 per cent, is made up of erythrocytes
(red blood cells) , leukocytes (white blood cells) and platelets (thrombocytes).
The erythrocytes are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to
the tissues. They owe their carrying ability to “hemoglobin” a
combination of an iron-containing prosthetic group, heme, with a
protein, globin. Hemoglobin attracts and forms a loose connection with
free oxygen , and in its presence enables blood to absorb some 60 times
the amount of oxygen that the plasma itself absorbs. Oxyhemoglobin is
red, which gives blood its red color.
Red blood cells are stored in the spleen
which acts as a reservoir for the blood system and discharges cells into
the blood as required. The spleen also discharges red blood cells into
the blood during emergencies such as a hemorrhage or shock.
Definition of HBO
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is defined
as breathing 100% oxygen while in an enclosed system pressurized to
greater than one atmosphere (sea level). Breathing 100% oxygen at
atmospheric pressure or applying topical oxygen without enclosing the
entire patient in a pressurized chamber does not produce the same
effects and is not recognized as hyperbaric therapy.
What does HBO do?
Low tissue oxygen levels (hypoxia), usually
related to impaired blood circulation within damaged tissues , does not
allow for the tissues to regenerate or heal. HBO increases the amount of
oxygen in your bloodstream up to 10-13 times normal levels. The
increased oxygen level in the blood provides immediate support to
injured tissue areas to promote the growth of new blood vessels, purge
toxins from the body and enhance the killing of bacteria within the
In complex wounds low oxygen levels in the
tissue surrounding the exposed area of the wound prevent the healing
process to start. HBO provides the required oxygen for microcirculation
and reduces the swelling (edema) to allow the healing to occur.
In the case of exceptional blood loss (red
cell mass) HBO can support the required oxygen for the body until the
red cells are replaced.
In the case of infectious diseases (anthrax,
flesh-eating, etc.) the bacteriostatic and bacteriocidal effects on
bacteria have been well demonstrated and documented.
What Happens During a HBO Session?
During a HBO session the patient is placed
in a pressurized chamber and breathes 100% oxygen under pressures 1 to 3
times atmospheric pressures for sessions of 60-120 minutes depending
upon the condition being treated. The air you are currently breathing
contains only 19-21% oxygen. The main benefit to a true HBO session
comes from the fact the patient breathes 100% oxygen under a
pressure greater than atmospheric. Breathing 100% oxygen at atmospheric
pressure is not HBO.
The HBO chamber has a built-in intercom
allowing the patient and clinic attendant to stay in constant
communication. The patient has clear visibility of the surroundings and
may be taken out at any time if required. During a session the patient
may watch TV or take a nap.
The number of treatments and hence cost is
dependent upon the condition being treated and the patient’s overall
health when starting the HBO sessions.
Hyperbaric Solutions operates fully
approved and registered HBO facilities in the Province of Ontario.