What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy and how does it work?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is used to treat some medical conditions. The treatment takes place in a chamber that you can see out of. You lay on a stretcher inside the chamber. You can watch TV. You can watch a movie. The chamber is pressurized. You breathe 100 percent oxygen. Your blood carries the extra oxygen to your injured area.

How do I find out if hyperbaric oxygen therapy is for me?

If you have a wound that hasn’t healed in four weeks, ask your doctor. He or she will evaluate your wound and decide if hyperbaric wound care is for you.

Can someone stay with me during HBOT?

To protect the privacy of our patients, family members may not remain with you during your treatment. A waiting room is provided for their comfort. A trained staff member is always in the room during treatment. You can communicate with them at any time.

What should I wear?

We put safety first. We will provide you with clothing to wear during your treatment. Please do not wear any of the following items when you come to the Center for HBO therapy:

  • Makeup
  • Wigs or hair pieces
  • Nail polish that has been on less than 24 hours. You can paint your nails at least 24 hours before an HBOT treatment.
  • Loose fitting dentures
  • Contact lenses
  • Deodorants
  • Skin lotions
  • Perfume, cologne or aftershave
  • Jewelry, including watches and earrings
  • Hair spray or oils
  • You cannot have anything in your mouth such as: gum, loose dentures, or candy during treatment.

Let the staff know if you feel ill or are congested.

How many HBOT treatments will I need?

Treatment is different for each patient. It depends on the patient’s condition and response to therapy. Most patients receive between 30 and 40 treatments.

How long does a HBOT treatment last?

Treatment will last about two hours. You will receive one treatment a day, Monday through Friday. Your doctor will tell you if you need more than one treatment a day.

What should I expect before treatment?

The HBOT technician will take your vital signs and listen to your lungs. The inside of your ears will be examined. You will be asked about your pain. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar will be checked. Safety checks will be done before each treatment.

Is HBOT painful?

HBOT is not painful. At the beginning of your hyperbaric wound care treatment you may feel pressure in your ears. Like when you fly in a plane or drive up into the mountains. You may have to clear your ears. The HBOT staff will instruct you on methods for clearing your ears:

  • Swallow
  • Yawn
  • Open and close your mouth

What should I tell my doctor before I begin HBOT?

Tell your doctor if you have:

  • An internal battery operated medical device such as a pacemaker or pain pump. The staff will make sure your device can be used in the chamber.
  • If you have an external battery operated medical device, it cannot go into the chamber. Your HBOT physician will contact your doctor for instructions on how to deal with this device.
  • Inform your HBOT doctor if you have EVER had chemotherapy.

What if I have diabetes?

Your doctor will discuss blood sugar control with you. The HBOT technician will check your blood sugar before and after treatment. Take your medicine as prescribed. Eat before HBOT.

What if I feel claustrophobic?

When you are in the chamber you can see out in all directions. If you are anxious, the doctor can prescribe medicine to help you relax.

Is HBOT covered by my insurance?

Medicare has approved coverage for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for wound healing including many types of chronic, non-healing wounds. Most private insurance companies follow Medicare rules. We will review your insurance plan with you before your therapy starts to make sure you know what your costs will be.

Kindwall, E. P. & Whelan, H. T. (2004) Hyperbaric medicine practice. (2nd ed.) Flagstaff: Best Publishing. Novell, H., & Larson-Lohr, V. (2002). Hyperbaric nursing. Flagstaff: Best Publishing

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