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Hyperbaric Medicine Q&A

Q: What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

A: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBO2, is a medical treatment in which a patient breathes 100% oxygen while under pressure in a hyperbaric chamber.

Q: What is the purpose of breathing oxygen under pressure?

A: The purpose of breathing 100% oxygen under pressure is to dissolve more oxygen in your body’s blood. This increased level of oxygen is then delivered throughout your entire body.

Q: Who requires extra oxygen?

A: There is no benefit increasing the level of oxygen in the body for a normal, healthy individual. However, there are certain medical conditions that benefit from increased levels of oxygen.

Q: What conditions benefit from HBO2?

A: A person with diabetes and a wound that is slow to heal, or is simply not healing.

  • Anyone with a wound that has shown no improvement in 4 weeks.
  • Certain infections of the bone and skin.
  • Someone with damaged tissue from radiation therapy.
  • Someone with a skin graft that has a questionable blood supply.
  • Brown recluse spider bite or certain serious infections.

Q: How long do HBO2 treatments last?

A: An average treatment lasts approximately 2 hours.

Q: How many HBO2 treatments does a person require?

A: There is no magical number of HBO2 treatments because each person responds slightly differently. However, it is possible to estimate how many treatments you may require based on your problem. For example, the average number of treatments required to heal a patient with a problem wound is between 20 – 40.

Q: Does my insurance cover this treatment?

A: Yes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is covered by most medical insurance companies, along with Medicare and Medicaid.

Q: How many times a day would I be treated?

A: Typically, for most chronic problems, once a day, 5 days a week, is sufficient. However, patients with more acute problems can be treated up to twice a day, 7 days a week.

Q: What are your hours of operation?

A: The department is available to treat patients from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with Saturday and Sunday reserved for patients requiring additional treatments.

Q: Are there any sensations associated with the HBO2 treatment?

A: The only sensation you will experience is during the compression phase of the treatment. The slowly increasing pressure will push on your eardrum. This is exactly the same feeling you would experience when landing in an airplane, diving to the bottom of a swimming pool, or descending from a tall building in an elevator. The hyperbaric staff will instruct you on the different methods of relieving this ear pressure.

Q: Is the HBO2 treatment dangerous?

A: No, the hyperbaric treatment is very safe as long as all the safety precautions are followed. As a patient, you are given a thorough orientation prior to your first treatment. Our staff, will not only assure your safety, but also make your treatment comfortable and stress free.

Q: What can I do during these treatments?

A: Each chamber is equipped with its own TV/VCR, so there is always the option of watching a movie during your treatment. Many patients simply use the time to catch up on some well-deserved rest and sleep the entire 2 hours.

Q: Are there any bathroom facilities in the chamber?

A: No, however it is possible to take a bedpan or urinal in with you during your treatment. While we make all efforts to avoid this, the staff will finish your treatment early should you be faced with a bathroom emergency.

Q: Do patients suffer from claustrophobia?

A: Interestingly enough, most hyperbaric patients do not suffer from claustrophobia. This could be due to either the large size of the chamber or the fact that it is made out of a clear plastic. From inside the chamber, it is possible to see out in all directions. There is always an attendant in the room during your treatment. For those patients still feeling anxious about their treatment, the hyperbaric physician can prescribe medication that will relax you and make your treatment less stressful.

Q: How can I communicate with the outside attendant?

A: The chamber is equipped with two-way communication. You can talk to the outside attendant at any time. The attendant can talk back to you through the chamber microphone.

Q: How do I get an appointment with the HBO2 department?

A: If you think you might benefit from HBO2 therapy the best thing you can do is mention it to your primary care physician. He can refer you directly to the department for an evaluation by the hyperbaric physician. Another route would be to refer yourself through the wound care clinic. The wound care clinic can evaluate you and determine whether hyperbaric oxygen would benefit you.