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What is Hyperbaric Healing?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: Hbk, Steve Simpson
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Hyperbaric healing for chronic wounds means enclosing the patient in a pressurized chamber while he or she breathes 100 percent oxygen. The increased level of oxygen infuses the blood, which carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. During hyperbaric healing, the blood receives up to 20 times the amount of oxygen it normally contains, which might generate faster healing for certain sores or conditions.

Diabetes patients who suffer from foot ulcers sometimes benefit from hyperbaric healing. It may reduce the need for amputation of a leg when the ulcers are not healing properly. The environment in a hyperbaric chamber may also enhance the level of insulin in patients with diabetes. To counteract this effect, a diabetic usually takes a glass of juice into the chamber to drink if needed.

This type of oxygen therapy may also be effective for pressure sores suffered by people who are bedridden or for those suffering from a vein disease that produces sores on the legs. For other skin ulcers, hyperbaric healing can be helpful for patients who are preparing for a skin graft. Burn patients may also experience quicker healing by using a hyperbaric chamber.

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Treatments range from 90-120 minutes daily, depending on the size and severity of the wound. After a limb has been amputated or if life-threatening infection presents, two treatments a day is commonly recommended. Once the condition improves, treatments typically return to once a day. Those with diabetic foot wounds generally require 20 to 40 sessions.

The air breathed in a normal environment contains 21 percent oxygen. Much of this oxygen is distributed to several bodily functions with little left to reach skin tissues. When oxygen levels in the body are low, less collagen is produced to assist in the healing process.

Some hyperbaric healing facilities outfit the chambers with televisions and video capabilities, and report that some patients fall asleep during treatments. Discomfort might occur in the ears when pressure is building in the sealed chamber, which feels similar to the pressure while ascending in an airplane. Hospital staff commonly give tips to patients to relieve ear pressure if it becomes uncomfortable.

Side effects of hyperbaric healing include possible visual problems that are usually temporary. A person who is near-sighted might find the condition worse, while a far-sighted person could see an improvement after treatment. Vision usually adjusts to its pre-treatment condition after a couple months. The process could also hasten the development of cataracts in some people. Patients who suffer claustrophobia are typically given a mild sedative before treatments begin.

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