Hyperbaric Medicine

Also known as: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy counters the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation and decompression illness in scuba divers, as well as promote tissue healing in patients with impaired circulation due to diabetes, trauma and radiation therapy.

In order to yield the best outcomes, Providence often turns to innovative treatments to address various health conditions. Introduced to the United States as a treatment back in 1861, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has a storied history of success and continues to effectively address issues related to tissue hypoxia, or low blood oxygen levels and pressure.

During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you are placed in an enclosed, clear acrylic chamber into which 100-percent oxygen is pumped at high pressure. This special environment increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can promote healing, prevent tissue death and help fight infection. 

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy counters the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation and decompression illness in scuba divers, as well as promote tissue healing in patients with impaired circulation due to diabetes, trauma and radiation therapy. 

There are three phases of a hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment: compression, treatment and decompression.

  1. The beginning of the treatment is the compression phase, where the atmospheric pressure is increased over several minutes. This causes the concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream to rise 15 to 20 times greater than normal.
  2. Once full pressurization occurs, the treatment phase begins and continues for approximately one-and-a-half to two hours. These high levels of oxygen promote the healing of damaged tissues, reduce swelling, reduce air bubble size and discourage bacteria growth. Blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals may be monitored throughout the course of treatment.
  3. The final step of treatment is the decompression phase, in which the chamber temperature returns to normal. This takes place over a period of several minutes.

Hyperbaric therapy usually involves a series of sessions. Before you are placed in the chamber, the staff will discuss a variety of topics to assure a safe and comfortable treatment. After the chamber’s door is closed, a specially trained technician can communicate with you using an intercom system. As the pressure increases, your ears may “pop” as they would when driving up a hill or changing altitude in a plane.

Depending on your condition, a therapy session may last from two to two and a half hours. During the session, you may watch TV or a movie, listen to music or sleep.