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Desert Hyperbaric Medicine

HBOT Explained

HBOT History

Hyperbaric Medicine is historically tied to diving. The earliest known diving occupation was for mother of pearl. In about 4500 BC the divers were said to be able to dive to no more than about 100 feet deep and just for a few minutes. It would be hundreds of years later when Alexander The Great was said to have been lowered into the Bosphorus Straits in 320 BC in a glass barrel.

Diving HelmetIn about 1500 Leonardo Da Vinci made sketches of various proposed diving apparatus but did not develop any for practical use. It would be 1620 that the Dutch Scientist Cornelius Drebbel developed the first true diving bell. Over the next few centuries various compressed air diving helmets and suits were developed which allowed the diver to stay underwater for an hour or so. Even though time underwater had been extended there were still limitations on depth because of ear drum rupturing at deeper depths.

Although the use of oxygen therapy has been known throughout Europe for centuries, Hyperbaric oxygen chambers were initially used in the 1930s to treat deep sea divers and coal miners suffering from decompression sickness.
Following World War One the United States military tested and developed the therapy and further research showed that exposure to hyperbaric chambers had many health benefits. In the 1950’s hyperbaric therapy was used to reduce the side-effects of cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment.

In 1967, the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) was founded to cultivate more research and data exchange of commercial and military diving. Nearly a decade later, The Hyperbaric Oxygen Committee was developed by UHMS to supervise the ethical practice of hyperbaric medicine.

One of the increased uses of hyperbaric therapy in today’s medical community is for wound healing, primarily in those suffering from diabetes. Today’s research continues to reinforce the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In addition, many athletes and others have found that HBOT can help to increase their stamina and healing of sports injuries.

How Does it Work?

In earth’s atmosphere, we breathe approximately 20%oxygen and 80%nitrogen. During HBOT, pressure is increased two to three times the normal atmospheric pressure while the patient breathes 100% pure oxygen.

The combination of the high concentration of oxygen (100%) and increased pressure causes large amounts of oxygen to be dissolved in the patient’s blood and other fluids. Because of this hyper-oxygenation, white blood cells that destroy bacteria are more efficient at clearing infections.

Your blood carries this oxygen throughout your body. This helps fight bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing.

HBOT also causes vasoconstriction (the constriction of blood vessels, which increases blood pressure) and that decreases swelling and edema. Ultimately the pressurized oxygen decreases the healing time and promotes better healing for reconstructive and plastic surgery patients and many others.

As research continues more and more uses are found for HBOT. Currently, the FDA and AMA recognize 15 treatments using HBOT (shown elsewhere on the web page)  In addition there are medical trials going on researching the benefits of HBOT from everything from Autism to Migraine headaches and more. (See list below of investigative uses of HBOT.)

HBOT FAQs

What is HBOT?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that delivers 100% oxygen within a pressurized chamber. At DHM we use “monoplace” (single patient) chambers.

What is a hyperbaric chamber?

Hyperbaric chambers are used to administer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) where patient breathes 100% oxygen under pressure.

How does it work?

During a treatment, oxygen under pressure is delivered into the hyperbaric chamber, increasing the partial pressure of oxygen within a person’s body as much as fifteen times above normal tissue saturation. Increased oxygen accelerates the healing process and assists in treating a variety of medical conditions.

What does the treatment feel like?

You should feel nothing once at treatment pressure. The internal chamber temperature may warm slightly, but will return to normal as soon as treatment pressure is obtained. During decompression, you may have a slight pressure in your ears which can be alleviated by swallowing or opening your mouth and popping your ears. The temperature again may change, but will return to typical upon completion of the treatment.

These occurrences are all typical. Keep in mind that a SMOOTH RIDE is making sure that ear squeeze is being abated throughout the entire profile for guaranteed patient comfort.

Is there anything I can do while I am inside the chamber?

Our chambers are equipped with entertainment systems, so you can watch television or movies while you are in the chamber. (We offer an extensive selection of movies.) Some patients also listen to music through the speaker system, while others just sleep or meditate. The most important thing is to just relax.

Are there any side effects?

A very small percentage of patients experience a slight change in their vision; this side effect usually goes away within eight weeks of completing treatment. It is recommended that patients do not get a new prescription for their eyewear while they are receiving HBOT.

Can I take anything with me into the chamber?

Due to the oxygen rich environment, the only thing permitted in the chamber with you is a water bottle.

How long does it take?

Each treatment session will take approximately 1-1/2 – 2 hours. Treatments will continue for about 5-60 sessions, depending on the diagnosis.

What organizations and regulators approve HBOT Treatments?

HBOT is approved by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for certain medical conditions.  Cost of treatment for some indications may be covered by Medicare and some private insurance companies.

What conditions are covered by insurance?
  1. Acute Carbon Monoxide intoxication
  2. Decompression Illness
  3. Gas embolism
  4. Gas gangrene
  5. Acute traumatic peripheral Ischemia (A). HBOT is a valuable adjunctive treatment (B) to be used in combination with accepted standard therapeutic measures when loss of function, limb or life is threatened
  6. Crush injuries and suturing of severed limbs. As in the previous conditions, HBOT would be an adjunctive treatment when loss of function, limb, or life is threatened
  7. Progressive necrotizing infections (necrotizing fasciitis) (C)
  8. Acute peripheral arterial insufficiency (bad arterial circulation)
  9. Preparation and preservation of compromised skin grafts (not for primary management of wounds)
  10. Chronic refractory osteomyelitis,(D) unresponsive to conventional medical and surgical management
  11. Osteoradionecrosis (E) as an adjunct to conventional treatment
  12. Soft tissue radionecrosis (F) as an adjunct to conventional treatment
  13. Cyanide poisoning
  14. Actinomycosis, (G) only as an adjunct to conventional therapy when the disease process is resistant to antibiotics and surgical treatment
  15. Diabetic wounds of the lower extremities in patients who meet the following three criteria:
    • Patient has type I or type II diabetes and has a lower extremity wound that is due to diabetes
    • Patient has a wound classified as Wagner grade III (severe, involving the bone) or higher
    • Patient has failed an adequate course of standard wound therapy

The most common disorders that we treat in our clinic are non-healing diabetic wounds, chronic refractory osteomyelitis and compromised skin grafts and flaps.


(A) Ischemia is a deficient supply of blood to a body part (such as the heart or brain) that is due to obstruction of the inflow of arterial blood.

(B) adjunctive therapy or care, is therapy that is given in addition to the primary, main, or initial therapy to maximize its effectiveness.

(C) Necrotizing soft tissue infection is a rare but very severe type of bacterial infection. It can destroy the muscles, skin, and underlying tissue. The word “necrotizing” refers to something that causes body tissue to die.

(D) Chronic refractory osteomyelitis is an infection of bone which has persisted or recurred after an initial course of treatment for osteomyelitis.

(E) Is a possible complication following radiotherapy where an area of bone does not heal from irradiation. Irradiation of bones causes damage to osteocytes (bone cells) and impairs the blood supply.

(F) Soft tissue radionecrosis (STRN) refers to the death (necrosi) of soft tissues as a result of exposure to ionizing radiation.

(G) Actinomycosis is a rare chronic bacterial infection that causes both suppurative (emanating from pus) and granulomatous (a collection of cells) inflammation.

What treatments are “investigational”?

HBOT is gaining widespread emerging recognition in treating conditions including:

  • Autism
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Migraines
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lyme disease
  • Addiction
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Chronic Pain Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer treatment recovery
  • Scleroderma

There is an increasing investigational list of other conditions which may benefit from HBOT such as:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Bells Palsy
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Cirrhosis
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Heart Disease
  • Heatstroke
  • Hepatitis
  • Migraine
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

In addition, many athletes are turning to HBOT for overall health and detox. While still not FDA approved for many conditions the beneficial healing effects of oxygen under pressure are well documented. A recent article showed athletes using HBOT to:

  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce Pain
  • Improve fracture healing
  • Speed recovery
  • Prevent hypoxia
  • Reduce the formation of scar tissue

And in some instances, HBOT allows athletes to return to training and competing faster than other treatments.

What are the benefits for cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic Surgery Benefits Patients recovering from cosmetic surgery need to exercise extra care to ensure that tissues receive enough oxygen during the healing process. HBOT in conjunction with cosmetic surgery is an effective way to expedite the healing process and shorten the recuperation time by approximately 50%.

HBOT accelerates healing in patients undergoing face lifts, laser skin resurfacing, chemical peels, tummy tucks, liposuction, breast reduction or augmentation and many other procedures. After HBOT, circulating stem cells, which are crucial to the repair of injured tissues, increase by eightfold.

HBOT is a safe way to decrease pain, swelling, bruising, redness and inflammation in the tissues, resulting in less discomfort and scarring after surgery. HBOT stimulates the natural production of collagen and has an anti-bacterial effect that reduces the risk of infection. Additionally, scars are minimized and many patients report discontinued use of pain medication after 24 hours.

A typical cosmetic surgery HBOT protocol involves five treatments post-surgery. More and more cosmetic surgeons are incorporating hyperbaric oxygen therapy into their pre and post-operative programs. At Desert Hyperbaric Medicine, we offer special rates for cosmetic surgery patients. Please contact our office for more information or to schedule a complimentary tour of our facility.

What should patients do before a treatment?

Once you have been referred to be treated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, you will be examined and given detailed instructions about what the procedures are for a patient. You will be asked not to wear certain materials in the chamber, such as: hair oils, hair spray, perfumes, make-up, nylons (panty hose), ointments, liniments, petroleum or Vaseline products, wigs or hair pieces, aftershave, synthetics (i.e. rayon, nylon, etc.), or salves. Additionally watches and some jewelry should not be worn in the chamber because they may break while under pressure or upon surfacing from the pressure.

Because the therapy involves 100 percent oxygen, any thing flammable poses a fire risk. Always have something to eat and avoid caffeine.

What should I wear?

You will be given a set of all-cotton scrubs to change into for your treatment. Do not wear any perfumes, lotions, makeup, nail polish or hair care products when you come in for treatment.

What if I am a smoker?

To receive the maximum benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients are encouraged not to smoke during the course of therapy. Smoking (even one cigarette) causes blood vessels to constrict, which decreases the blood and oxygen supply to tissue, counteracting the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen. It is highly recommended that the patient refrain from smoking during their entire course of treatment, maybe even allowing the patient to quit all together.

Can I use the bathroom during a treatment session?

Patients are encouraged to use the restroom prior to the session. Therapy typically lasts one and a half hours (comparable to the length of a feature film).

Do I need a prescription?

Yes. Oxygen is considered to be a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in the United States, must be prescribed by a physician.

Can I eat and/or take medications before treatment?

Take all medications as directed by your doctor. Eat before you arrive. Avoid smoking immediately before and after hyperbaric treatment.

What kind of background/training do the technicians have?

A CHT (certified hyperbaric technologist) must first be an emergency medical technician, dive medical technician, or registered nurse.

How much does it cost?

The cost of treatment varies depending on the treatment protocol. Medicare and/or private insurance companies covers 15 indications as noted above. Please consult your insurance carrier regarding your deductible. Contact us for more information.

If you have further questions call or email our offices for more detailed information.