Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, and wounds that won't heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury.

In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, your lungs can gather more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.

Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Your body's tissues need an adequate supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. An increase in blood oxygen temporarily restores normal levels of blood gases and tissue function to promote healing and fight infection.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat several medical conditions. And medical institutions use it in different ways. Your doctor may suggest hyperbaric oxygen therapy if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Anemia, severe
  • Brain abscess
  • Bubbles of air in your blood vessels (arterial gas embolism)
  • Burn
  • Decompression sickness
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Crushing injury
  • Deafness, sudden
  • Gangrene
  • Infection of skin or bone that causes tissue death
  • Nonhealing wounds, such as a diabetic foot ulcer
  • Radiation injury
  • Skin graft or skin flap at risk of tissue death
  • Vision loss, sudden and painless

The evidence is insufficient to support claims that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can effectively treat the following conditions:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Bell's palsy
  • Brain injury
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cirrhosis
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Heart disease
  • Heatstroke
  • Hepatitis
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Sports injury
  • Stroke
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