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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen is critical to life.  Without oxygen, you die in a few minutes.  However, there are misconceptions about ostxygen therapy.  In a normal situation, oxygen is carried by hemoglobin inside red blood cells and delivered to the tissues/cells.  If your lungs are working correctly, your hemoglobin will be about 95%-98% saturated.  This means that breathing a higher concentration of oxygen from a tank or other oxygen source does little to nothing because your hemoglobin can't carry any more oxygen!  The measurement device for this is called a PaO2 measurement.

The amount of oxygen that will dissolve in a liquid is dictated by the voltage of the liquid and the atmospheric pressure.  If one increases either, more oxygen will go into solution.  The liquid part of the blood is called the plasma.  Normally there is very little oxygen in the plasma.  Thus when you use hyperbaric oxygen to increase the atmospheric pressure, more oxygen will dissolve in the plasma.  This is the advantage of hyperbaric oxygen over just breathing oxygen at atmospheric pressure.  In addition to having more oxygen available to cells, oxygen in the plasma can get to areas where the red blood cells are too large to access.

 

Since it was develped to treat the bends suffered by divers surfacing too rapidly, it has been extensively studied for other illnesses.  A search for "hyperbaric oxygen" on PubMed gives 6581 published articles!

 

The research continues to outstrip FDA approval and standard-of-care medicine.  In spite of the research showing that increasing the availability of oxygen helps almost any chronic and most acute injuries, the FDA has only approved its use in the following since it costs millions of dollars for FDA approval for each use.  Since one cannot patent oxygen, there is very little incentive for anyone to spend the money to get it approved for other uses.

 

  • Air or gas embolism

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning:  Carbon monoxide poisoning complicated by cyanide poisoning

  • Central retinal artery occlusion

  • Clostridal myositis and myonecrosis (gas gangrene)

  • Crush injury, compartment syndrome, and other acute traumatic ischemias

  • Decompression sickness

  • Enhancement of healing in selected problem wounds:  Diabetically derived illness, such as diabetic foot, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy

  • Exceptional blood loss (anemia)

  • Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss

  • Intracranial abscess

  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections (necrotizing fasciitis)

  • Osteomyelitis (refractory)

  • Delayed radiation injury (soft tissue and bony necrosis)

  • Skin grafts and flaps (compromised)

  • Thermal burns

 

Hospitals will only allow their hyperbaric tanks to be used for things insurance will pay for and will not let you pay to use their tanks!  Of course insurance will only pay for things approved by the FDA.  Thus the miriad of other uses for hyperbaric can only be done in a clinic setting and insurance will not pay for it.

 

We use hyperbaric for those conditions shown in the medical literature to be helped with hyperbaric oxygen.  Of course we cannot list the 6,581 articles listed on PubMed here.