Frequently Asked Questions About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that allows patients to breathe pure oxygen while lying comfortably inside a pressurized chamber. Breathing 100 percent oxygen delivered at increased pressure increases the amount of oxygen delivered to organs and tissues in the body. This improves the effects of certain antibiotics, activates white blood cells to fight infection and promotes the healing process of chronic wounds.
What types of conditions are treated with HBOT?
Hyperbaric treatment is well known for its use in underwater diving accidents, but also has beneficial healing effects in other conditions including:
Radiation tissue damage
Diabetic wounds of the lower extremities
Other chronic nonhealing wounds
Patients are accepted for HBOT after referral from their own physician and consultation with a physician specially trained in hyperbaric medicine. Our staff will explain your individual treatment plan as well as the risks and benefits of therapy.
What are the common side effects of HBOT?
Most patients tolerate hyperbaric therapy quite well. However, there are several common side effects that may occur:
Temporary visual changes: You may experience subtle improvement or worsening in your vision during the course of treatment. Vision will return to pretreatment levels after completion the course of treatment.
Fullness in the ears: As the hyperbaric chamber pressurizes, you may notice a "popping" or fullness in your ears. This is a temporary sensation and you will be instructed on techniques to clear your ears. Techniques like chewing gum and simply yawning can help equalize ear pressure.
Increased opaqueness of preexisting cataracts: If you have been diagnosed with cataracts, you should discuss the possibility of increased opaqueness with your ophthalmologist.
What is the typical treatment plan?
Hyperbaric treatments are generally 120 minutes daily, five days per week. The number of treatments is based on each individual diagnosis according to the guidelines of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS).
What does the HBOT chamber look like?
The hyperbaric chamber is located within the Wound Healing Center at Paoli Hospital. The chamber is cylinder-shaped allowing you to lay comfortably during treatment. You can see through the chamber throughout the session and can watch TV, listen to music or even take a nap. A nurse specially trained in hyperbaric medicine will stay with you at all times while you receive treatment and will stay in constant communication with you via an intercom system.
Are there conditions that can affect therapy?
If you smoke, you should try to quit prior to treatment. Smoking may diminish the effectiveness of HBOT treatment by decreasing the amount of oxygen that can reach the tissues. If you do not quit smoking prior to treatment, you should not smoke for at least two hours before treatment.
If you have a head cold, fever, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea prior to or on the day of treatment, you should call us at 484-565-1212 so that we can determine whether you should receive treatment. We also need to know whether you have eaten breakfast or whether your medications have changed during the course of treatment.
What is the typical treatment process?
Following an evaluation by a hyperbaric physician, you will be given detailed instructions on how to prepare for treatment and what to expect during treatment.
Pretreatment preparation: You cannot wear the following while in the chamber: hair spray, perfumes, makeup, nylons (stockings or pantyhose), ointments, liniments, petroleum or Vaseline products, wigs or hair pieces, aftershave, synthetic clothing (rayon, nylon, etc.) or any type of salves. In addition, watches, pens, lighters, cigarettes and matches are not permitted in the chamber.
Treatment: The first few minutes of treatment will be somewhat noisy. The chamber may seem warm at first and then the temperature will be adjusted to a comfortable setting. You will feel a change in pressure in your ears and will be instructed on how to equalize the pressure. During the remainder of the treatment, you can read, sleep, watch TV or listen to music.
Posttreatment: After completion of the therapy session, the chamber will be decompressed to normal atmospheric pressure. You may feel a bubbling sensation in the ears, but there should be no discomfort. The chamber will cool as it is decompressed.
If you have any questions or need further information, please call the Wound Healing Center at Paoli Hospital at 484-565-1212.
New Appointments 1.866.CALL.MLH or 484.580.1000
255 West Lancaster Avenue
Paoli, PA 19301
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.