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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Wound Healing

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves exposing the body to 100% oxygen at a pressure that is greater than what you normally experience. Wounds need oxygen to heal properly, and exposing a wound to 100% oxygen can, in some cases, speed the healing process.

Procedure overview

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be done in a number of ways. It can be given in a special type of room called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. In this setting, you are completely immersed in 100% oxygen delivered at high pressure. It can also be given through a gas mask, which delivers 100% oxygen to your lungs. The rest of your body is at normal oxygen levels, but still under higher pressure than normal.

Reasons for the procedure

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used for certain types of wounds. Some of these are:

  • Delayed radiation injuries

  • Soft tissue infections

  • Thermal burns

  • Certain skin grafts and flaps

  • Crush injuries

  • Diabetes-related wounds

Ask your provider if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is appropriate for your condition, particularly if you have diabetes-related wounds.

Risks of the procedure

Side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are extremely rare but include:

  • Pressure-related trauma to your ears or nose

  • Nearsightedness (This usually resolves within days to weeks after the last treatment.) 

  • Non–life-threatening convulsions related to oxygen toxicity

  • Decompression sickness

A few patients with severe congestive heart failure have experienced additional problems with heart function after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Share your complete medical history with your provider to make certain hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe for you. 

During the procedure

Some facilities have a large hyperbaric oxygen chamber that can treat up to a dozen people at a time. But the typical hospital has what is known as a monoplace. This is equipment for just one person.

Here is what usually happens during a hyperbaric oxygen therapy session:

  • You will likely be asked to remove your clothing and wear a medical gown that is 100% cotton.

  • You will lie on a table that slides into the monoplace. This is a clear plastic tube that’s about 7-feet long.

  • You will be asked to relax and breathe normally during the procedure. You can watch TV or listen to music.

  • You will be able to talk to the therapist at any time during the treatment. The therapist can see you and talk to you at all times

  • The chamber will be sealed and then filled with pressurized oxygen.

  • The pressure will rise to 2.5 times the normal air pressure. You may experience some ear popping or mild discomfort. This is completely normal.

  • The session will last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

  • After the therapy, technicians will slowly depressurize the chamber.

After the procedure

Once your hyperbaric oxygen therapy session is complete, you may feel lightheaded or tired. These symptoms will usually go away after a short period of time.

The number of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments you will need depends on the extent of your wound and how well the wound responds to therapy.

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