What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is a medical treatment in
which the entire body is placed under increased atmospheric
pressure while the patient breathes 100% oxygen. This treatment,
which is administered in a pressurized chamber, is proven
effective for non-healing wounds, osteomyelitis that does
not respond to standard treatment, problem surgical wounds,
and skin grafts and flaps that are having trouble healing.
HBO is also helpful with patients experiencing complications
from radiation therapy.
The Hyperbaric Chamber
Our state-of-the-art electronic hyperbaric oxygen chambers
are unique to the Treasure Valley. The chambers are designed
for one person to be treated at a time. The chamber is clear,
so you will be able to see outside and communicate with the
hyperbaric technician at all times through an intercom system.
During treatment, the chamber is “compressed” to
a pressure that is 2 to 2.4 times that of sea level. This
is the same pressure a scuba diver feels at 33 to 45 feet
under the surface of the ocean.
You will notice a lot of “air noise” during your
treatment. This is a normal part of the chamber function.
How does the hyperbaric chamber work?
Normally, the atmosphere exerts 14.7 pounds
per square inch of pressure on your body at sea level, while
you breathe air that is approximately 21% oxygen and 79%
nitrogen. During an HBO treatment, you will breathe 100%
oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure within the chamber.
This combination of high concentrations of oxygen and increased
pressure causes large amounts of oxygen to be dissolved in
your blood and tissues, typically 10 to 15 times the usual
amount. This dissolved oxygen can penetrate
areas that red blood cells cannot reach, revitalizing tissues
that receive poor blood flow.
What will I feel during treatment?
During your treatment, you lie down inside the chamber.
The chamber door will be closed, and you will begin to hear
the air circulating. During this pressurization phase, you
may feel a "fullness" or "pressure" sensation
in your ears. A hyperbaric technician will be outside the
chamber at all times to assist and coach you on how to clear
your ears and address any other needs you may have. Compression
generally lasts five minutes, depending on how effectively
you are able to clear your ears. When you have reached the
prescribed treatment pressure, the "fullness" or "pressure" sensation
will cease. During treatment, you will be able to watch TV
or a movie, or listen to music or a book on CD. The total
treatment time is approximately two hours.
Are there any other effects?
Generally, patients do not experience side effects from
HBO. However, some patients report a crackling sensation
in their ears between treatments. This may be relieved in
the same manner you clear your ears during compression. If
the crackling sound continues, please tell one of our staff
members. As with all medical procedures and treatments, there
are some side effects that may result from exposure to the
hyperbaric oxygen. These are rare, but will be discussed
with you in detail by the physician before your treatment.
In about 80% of cases, significant
healing is seen. Not every patient will respond well to
treatments. If no improvement is seen within 15 to 20 treatments,
or “dives,” the
chance of success is lessened.
After 20 to 30 treatments, when
there is a good response, hyperbaric therapy may be stopped.
Your body has been given the “kick start” it
needed to help you finish healing on your own. For radiation
and osteomyelitis, 30 to 40 treatments may be required.
Each dive takes approximately 2 ½ hours
total. This can involve a good portion of your time, but it
is very important that you have all your treatments. Treatments
are scheduled Monday through Friday.
Throughout your treatment, it is important that you stay
in contact with your primary care physician. Our physicians
are fully licensed, but their specialty is in hyperbaric
medicine and wound care. For problems not related to your
wound care, your physician must remain your constant source
of care. Our physicians will keep your primary physician
updated on our progress with your care.
During Your Treatment
- Do not use any tobacco products while being treated with
hyperbaric oxygen. Smoking prevents full oxygen use by
the blood and decreases the size of your blood vessels.
- Keep your physician up to date on your current medications.
- If you become ill (cold, sinus problems, diarrhea, nausea,
swollen feet, problems breathing, chest pains, low blood
sugar, etc.), inform your primary care physician. If you
need to cancel your hyperbaric treatment, please let us
know as soon as possible.
- If you have diabetes, we will check your blood sugar
at the beginning and end of the treatment. HBO can lower
your blood sugar. Your blood sugar should be above
120 before entering the chamber.
- You may take a beverage in an approved container into
the chamber with you.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Consultations
Successful therapy requires a team management
approach. After referral from your primary care physician,
you will be evaluated by a physician at St. Luke's Clinic – Wound Center. A treatment regimen* will
be designed for your individual needs. This treatment regimen,
along with other recommendations, will be shared with your
referring physician, who will remain responsible for your
general medical management.
To arrange a consultation with one of
our physician specialists, talk with your primary care physician
or call St. Luke's Clinic – Wound Center
at (208) 489-5800.
*Oxygen intake under increased atmospheric
pressure is a potent drug; therefore, hyperbaric oxygen must
be administered carefully to avoid toxic effects. This is
why protocols established by the Undersea and Hyperbaric
Medical Society (UHMS), the patient’s clinical response,
and other factors are used to determine the number of treatments