How It Works
Under normal circumstances, oxygen is only transported throughout the body by red blood cells.
With Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), oxygen is dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, including the blood plasma and lymph. Then it can be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked.
The increased concentration means that the gradient for the transport of free oxygen from blood into the tissues is increased at least 10 fold.
In this way, extra oxygen can reach damaged tissues and the body can support its own healing process.
The increased oxygen also greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas.
It is a simple, non-invasive and painless treatment.
The sequence below explains the process:
1. Normal Blood Flow
There is 20% oxygen in the air that we breathe, and our lungs transfer this oxygen to our red blood cells via haemoglobin.
These oxygen-filled red blood cells are carried around the body by the plasma fluid, which travels through the blood vessels.
The oxygen diffuses into the surrounding tissue ensuring that it is delivered to where it is needed most.
2. Restricted Blood Flow
When there is a restriction in blood flow due to surgery, illness, or injury, the red blood cells block the blood vessel and are unable to transfer oxygen to the cells on the other side of the occlusion.
This can cause swelling, reduces blood flow and starves the area of oxygen. When this occurs the tissue, cells and organs begin to break down, degenerate and die.
This is what causes problem wounds, diabetic foot problems and long term tissue damage with radiation treatment.
3. Hyperbaric Oxygenation
Breathing 100% oxygen under pressure causes the oxygen to diffuse into the blood plasma. This, now oxygen-rich plasma, is able to travel past any restrictions, diffusing many times further into the tissue.
The pressurized environment helps to reduce swelling and discomfort, while providing the body with at least 10 times its normal supply of oxygen to help repair tissue damaged by the original occlusion caused by your medical condition.
4. Blood Vessel Regeneration (Angiogenesis)
HBOT also forces more oxygen into the tissue, encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.
As these new blood vessels develop, the red blood cells start to flow, delivering even more oxygen to the affected area.
This creates the best environment for the body’s natural healing processes to repair damaged tissue. HBOT has the potential to effectively resolve tissue, cells and organ function as well as reducing rehabilitation time.
What Conditions Can HBOT Treat?
Hyperbaric oxygen can be used to treat all conditions which benefit from increased tissue oxygen availability.
It can be helpful for anyone who is suffering from a wound that is slow to heal. Diabetic ulcers are prime examples of such wounds. They are graded in terms of their severity, which is usually related to the length of time the ulcer has existed.
HBOT can be useful for all grades of ulcer, by speeding healing and preventing the ulcer from deteriorating. This helps decrease the risk of unnecessary surgery or amputation. Furthermore, it reduces long term costs such as the use of expensive dressings, and frees up hospital beds and staff.
In the UK, we follow similar guidelines to those used in the USA as to what HBOT cases we treat and that the NHS will fund.
- “the bends” in divers
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- bubbles in the brain or arterial circulation
- retinal artery occlusion
- problem wounds
- radiation tissue damage
- soft tissue infections and ulcers as found in diabetic feet
There are many more conditions that HBOT is used to treat in other European countries, which are still seen as “off-label” in the UK. Examples are:
- Sudden deafness
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cerebral Palsy and Autism
- Placental insufficiency
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Oxygen Healing only recommend the use of HBOT chambers where the doctors concerned ensure there is enough evidence supporting the use of HBOT for the particular problem being addressed.