With the continuous development of medicine, new treatment techniques are being discarded aimed to treating previously incurable diseases. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy “HBOT” is one of these techniques.
What is HBOT ?
HBOT is a medical treatment in which the patient intermittently breathes 100% oxygen while inside a hyperbaric chamber that is pressurized to greater than sea level pressure.
It is well known for treating scuba and deep-sea divers affected by the rapid change in pressure around them. It is also used to treat a variety of other health problems.
A hyperbaric chamber is made from high quality transparent acrylic which allows for the delivery of oxygen to the body in higher concentrations than normal.
HBOT is considered a supplementary therapy and is used in combination with another medical treatment. It is carried out under the close supervision of a physician specializing in hyperbaric medicine and is a non-invasive, painless treatment.
When we use HBOT ?
As of July 2021, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared hyperbaric chambers for the following disorders:
1- Air and gas embolism.
2- Anemia (sever conditions, when blood transfusions cannot be used).
3- Decompression sickness (diving risk).
4- Gas gangrene.
5- Carbon monoxide poisoning.
6- Burns ( resulting from heat or fire) and wounds (non-healing, diabetic ulcers).
7- Skin grafts.
8- Some brain and sinus infections.
9- Osteomyelitis, a bone marrow infection.
10- Acute traumatic ischemia, which may involve a crush injury, for example.
11- Radiation injury.
12- Hearing loss (complete hearing loss that occurs suddenly and without any known cause).
13- Vision loss (when sudden and painless in one eye due to blockage of blood flow).
This technique is being studied for other illnesses, including Covid-19. However, at this time, the FDA has not authorized or cleared the use of any HBOT device to treat covid-19 or any conditions beyond those listed above.
There are many cases in which HBOT is used and has not been approved by the FDA :
• Bell’s palsy
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Multiple sclerosis
• Brain and spinal cord injuries
• Heart disease
• Cerebral palsy
It must be emphasized that HBOT should be received only for cases that have been approved in order to avoid the risks of side effects and waste of time and money.
HBOT is usually performed from one session (carbon monoxide poisoning) up to several session ( eight in soft tissue necrosis ) depending on the situation.
The duration of the session will also depended on the reason of the treatment. A session may last 30 minutes to 2 hours. It is treated as an outpatient under the supervision of a doctor who determines the number and duration of sessions needed.
What are the side effects of HBOT ?
Possible side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (generally mild and very rare) :
• Ear pain or popping
• Sinus pain
• Oxygen toxicity
• Middle ear injuries, including tympanic membrane rupture
• Temporary vision changes and cataracts
• Rarely , lung collapse.
Can HBOT be used to treat cancer?
High oxygen flow is not a cure for cancer, and it may even promote the growth of cancer cells, according to some studies. But the benefits of using HBOT in the treatment of cancer is mainly in combination with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
It can works as:
• Reduces side effects from radiation exposure.
• As a chemo and radiation sensitizer.
• Helps regrow damaged blood vessels.
• Increase blood oxygen levels.
• Improve immune system function.
• Increase the release of stem cells from the bone marrow.
Finally , HBOT is a relatively new interesting and promising treatment method, useful and important in FDA-approved cases. It may be dangerous and lead to unwanted side effects in cases where it has not been approved. It is used with caution and under direct medical supervision.