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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions regarding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is a form of treatment where patients breathe in 100% oxygen, while in a pressurized environment. Many hard-to-heal wounds are considered "hypoxic", meaning that they have a very poor oxygen supply, and oxygen is a critical ingredient of wound healing. HBO delivers this badly needed oxygen to the wound, which in turn stimulates the processes of wound healing.

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen work to heal my wound?

Many chronic wounds are starved for oxygen, meaning the body cannot get oxygen via the blood stream to the area of injury. This is usually due to a patient's medical conditions. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment that works to heal wounds using several different mechanisms. It kickstarts wound healing by delivering oxygen, dissolved in the blood at high concentrations, to a chronically oxygen starved wound. It "turns on" many different types of important wound healing cells that need oxygen to work. This promotes the production of collagen, a vital ingredient in wound healing, which leads to the rapid growth of new blood vessels in the area. It also helps to fight infection by killing bacteria, and promoting the effects of different types of antibiotics. All of this translates to an accelerated healing process. 

What conditions does Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy treat?

Some of conditions that we have treated with hyperbaric oxygen include:

  • Diabetic Foot ulcers
  • Chronic Bone Infections (Osteomyelitis)
  • Failing surgical flaps and skin grafts
  • Soft Tissue Radiation Injury
  • Radiation injury to the jaw
  • Necrotizing or Severe soft tissue infections
  • Hard to heal wounds caused by certain medical conditions

How long is each treatment?

Each hyperbaric treatment session is approximately 90 minutes, although you should plan on a total of 2 hours per day. During this time you will be able to watch TV, movies, or just listen to your favorite music. You can choose from our extensive DVD library or bring in a movie or music of your own.

How many treatments are there?

The duration of treatment will vary with the diagnosis. On average, a person can expect to receive approximately 30 treatments to ensure that the body has enough time to develop healthy new tissue to heal the wound.

Is there any pain during Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy?

Although there is no pain associated with receiving actual hyperbaric oxygen, some patients do report some ear discomfort when initially going to the treatment pressure. This discomfort is similar to what you may feel when landing in an airplane or diving in a swimming pool, and the operator will teach you how to reduce the discomfort through special ear clearing techniques. There are no needles or IV lines involved in hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

What are the side effects?

Hyperbaric oxygen is considered to be a very safe therapy associated with very few side effects. Although the most commonly reported side effects include some mild ear discomfort, most patients tolerate hyperbaric oxygen therapy without difficulty.

How do I pass the time during my treatment?

There is a TV above each chamber to enable you to watch movies on DVD, cable television or you can simply relax and listen to your favorite music. You can choose from our extensive DVD library or bring in a movie or music of your own.

What does the Hyperbaric chamber look like?

Our facility chambers are quite spacious, measuring 9 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 5.5 feet tall. The chamber itself is made of completely clear acrylic, so you can see your entire surroundings. During therapy, you will sit on a stretcher, slightly inclined, with your feet extended. A television screen will be directly over you so that you may watch movies or cable TV. You will have room to move your arms and legs and shift positions. You will also be in continuous view of our chamber operator and will be able to speak to the operator via the two-way communication system.

How will I feel during the treatment?

The only time when patients feel anything is when they are starting or finishing their treatment, when they may feel pressure changes in their ears. During the therapy, most patients will not feel any different than they would outside of the chamber.

How do I know if it is working?

Your hyperbaric physician will be monitoring your wound and/or symptoms during the course of your therapy. If you have a wound, you will start to notice that the wound will start to slowly fill in and then cover with skin. If you are having radiation symptoms such as pain or bleeding, these should start to improve or completely resolve as therapy progresses.

How can I communicate with the operator outside of the chamber?

A two-way communication system is present in the chamber so that you may speak with your attendant at any time.

Where is the hyperbaric doctor during my treatment?

In addition to always being immediately available within the suite if any need arose, the hyperbaric physician will also do a quick exam before and after every treatment, looking in your ears and listening to your heart and lungs. The physician will also check on you intermittently during early therapy to answer any questions that you may have.

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy covered by my insurance?

Medicare has approved coverage for certain diagnoses and most insurance companies follow Medicare guidelines. Before we start therapy, we will work with your insurance provider to obtain preauthorization, if needed, for your treatments. If there are deductibles or other costs associated with therapy, these will be discussed with you before therapy is started.

How can I prepare for therapy?

The chamber operator will discuss your therapy with you prior to starting so that you know what to expect.

What can I take into the chamber?

To maximize your safety, we will give you clothing to wear while in the chamber. Dressing rooms with lockers are available for your personal belongings. The operator will carefully review with you what is and what is not allowed in the chamber.

What if I need to go to the bathroom during treatment?

We ask that you go to the bathroom prior to starting therapy, but urinals are available if needed. If you prefer to use the restroom instead, the therapy can also be stopped at any time, at your request, and you will be brought back to normal pressure.

What if I get claustrophobia or anxiety?

Since the chambers are clear, most patients do not suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia. And unlike many other facilities, our extra large chambers also allow you to sit up during therapy, which also minimizes any "closed in" feelings you might develop. However, if necessary, the hyperbaric physician can prescribe a medication for you to use during therapy, to help you relax.

How do I tell if I need hyperbaric oxygen?

If you have a history of a nonhealing wound, or a history of radiation therapy in the past with the onset of unusual physical symptoms currently, talk with your doctor about a referral to the FMH Center for Advanced Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine. Our physicians can evaluate you for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to see if you are a candidate.



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