Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, also known as HBOT, is a method used to increase the amount of oxygen supplied to the body by increasing both the atmospheric pressure and the concentration of oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been in practice for almost 400 years, but many doctors are not familiar with it.
Previously, HBOT chambers were only available in large medical centers, and were used for only a few conditions. With recent technological advancements in chamber design, however, HBOT has become available to clinics and homes, greatly expanding its use in treating many medical conditions.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy originally was mainly used for treating severely infected wounds. It was also used for divers who got the “bends” and for mountain climbers who got high altitude sickness.
It has only recently been gaining acceptance by the general medical community for enhancing the treatment of a much wider range of conditions, including neurologic, gastrointestinal, immunologic, toxic, and developmental conditions.
Professional athletes adopted the use of portable HBOT chambers early on, and often use them before and after every game to enhance athletic performance and aid in physical recovery from sports injuries.
The reason why HBOT is beneficial to so many different kinds of problems is that oxygen is at the very center of every biochemical process in our bodies, and is arguably the most important nutrient on earth. We can only live without oxygen for a few brief minutes, and enhancing oxygenation turns out to be beneficial to the entire body in hundreds of different ways. The brain uses more oxygen pound-for-pound than any other organ in the body, so it makes sense that the brain is particularly sensitive to disruptions in the supply of oxygen that can occur for many reasons, including toxic exposure, inflammation from infections or autoimmunity, interruptions in blood supply such as from a heart attack, stroke or head injury, or clogged vessels from age. Our primary focus at Optimal Health Spectrums is the use of oxygen under pressure to help in the recovery from brain disorders and neurologic injuries of many kinds in the pediatric and adult community, although we do prescribe it for other conditions when it is needed.
How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) work?
Increasing the oxygen concentration (above the usual 21% in room air) and atmospheric pressure at the same time allows more oxygen to enter into the blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluids. Oxygen can thus penetrate otherwise under-oxygenated tissues. This helps with cell growth and regeneration, detoxification, immune support, and neurological and gastrointestinal functioning, among other things. The pressure/oxygen combination also has a potent anti-inflammatory effect, which benefits many conditions that have inflammation as part of the disease process.
Types of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy is typically separated into two types, mild HBOT and higher pressure HBOT. Each type of HBOT has its own advantages. Mild HBOT uses lower atmospheric pressures of 1.3 ATA and most commonly uses up to about 60% oxygen. This form of HBOT has very few side effects and is very safe, even for young children. Higher pressure HBOT generally uses pressures of 1.5 ATA or greater, and up to 100% oxygen. This type of HBOT requires a large steel tank and is only offered at specialized clinics and is much more expensive and inconvenient, since treatments are usually done daily. Optimal Health Spectrums offers Mild HBOT chambers for home rental and in-house use.
HBOT is FDA approved for 13 conditions, and is therefore covered by insurance for those indications.
The 13 FDA approved conditions are:
- Diabetic Foot Ulcer
- Chronic Non-Healing Wounds
- Refractory Osteomyelitis
- Air Embolism
- Decompression Sickness
- Intracranial Abscess
- Gas Gangrene
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Crush Injury
- Severe Anemia
- Compromised Skin Grafts
- Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
For many other medical and neurological problems beyond the relatively rare 13 approved conditions, extensive published research and professional clinical experience has shown benefit from hyperbaric oxygen treatment. For these other medical and neurological issues, HBOT is not yet FDA approved, and is therefore usually not covered by insurance. The use of HBOT to treat these conditions is considered “off-label.” Off-label treatments are common in medicine. Read for yourself some of the articles that have been published showing benefit from HBOT in conditions that are often considered largely untreatable by conventional means – things like Autism, Strokes, MS, Concussion, Seizures, and Headaches, for example. For a great overview of the many conditions that can be improved with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, please see the book, “The Oxygen Revolution” by Dr. Paul Harch, one of the pioneers in the field of HBOT.
Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy is very safe for most people, there are a few medical conditions for which treatment with extra oxygen under pressure is contraindicated (not recommended). If a patient does not have any of these conditions, then HBOT is generally considered safe for that patient. One example of a contraindicated condition would be if the patient has an aneurism – a swollen, fragile blood vessel that could burst under pressure – very rare in the first place, and very unlikely at the relatively low pressures that we use. Another example would be any unstable medical condition (such as severe, uncontrolled seizures) in which being in a closed, pressurized chamber where there is no immediate medical access may be problematic. If you have any questions about the safety of HBOT for your medical condition, please feel free to call us. Prior to your first treatment, you must set up an appointment with Dr. Mielke, and/or obtain a medical clearance from your primary care physician.
The following is a list of the conditions in which HBOT treatment is not recommended:
- Acute asthma attack
- High Fever
- Uncontrolled seizure disorder
- Optic Neuritis
- Known ear infection or blocked ear canals
- Known sinus infection or upper respiratory infection
- Severe heart or lung disease
- Congenital spherocytosis
- Currently taking: Cisplatinum, Disulphiram, or Doxorubicin
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Home Rental Program:
Optimal Health Spectrums is pleased to offer the popular Vitaeris soft-sided or “mild” hyperbaric chambers for home rental to our patients, by prescription only.
Convenience and Accessibility: Home use of the soft-sided chambers offers the advantage of accessibility to those who live far away. In the past, patients often had to travel long distances, often at great inconvenience, to be able to find a hyperbaric center that could offer treatment. The daily treatment schedule is very difficult to sustain for most people at an outside clinic. With home rental you can get the benefit of HBOT without having to travel.
Efficiency and Affordability: Another advantage of home HBOT is that you can do more than one hour of treatment in a day. In a center, usually only one hour can be scheduled at a time. There is some new evidence that for mild HBOT, there may be even more benefit to the therapy if it is done for 2-3 hours per day. When a family does that, they get two – three times the number of sessions per treatment period than they would get if they came to a center. This makes the cost per treatment very affordable. Some patients will sleep, read or do office work on a laptop while in the home chamber. This ability to multi-task at home makes it a very efficient use of your treatment time. Also, for families that have more than one HBOT user, home rental is very cost-effective.
HBOT Chamber Purchase: Through home rental, mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be done in your home at your convenience for as long as it is needed, without having to make the larger investment of purchasing the chamber. When many families find out how beneficial home HBOT really is, they end up wanting to buy the chamber after all. Optimal Health Spectrums has arranged with the manufacturer of the chambers to be able to sell new chambers to our patients at a discount. If you are interested in purchasing a new chamber, please contact us for information.
HBOT Rental Policies The complete HBOT Rental Policies document is included in the HBOT Intake Packet, which will be emailed or sent through regular mail after you call to investigate or schedule an appointment. As an overview, HBOT rentals require that the person be a patient of Optimal Health Spectrums, and get a prescription for HBOT treatment from Dr. Mielke. Rentals are done on a monthly basis, with significant discounts offered for extensions of the rental period. A deposit, applicable to the rental cost, is required for the equipment. There is an added fee for operational training and chamber inspection/cleaning. Adult patients are asked to fill out a symptom tracking form weekly, to help document their progress. You may call the staff with any questions during the rental period. We ask that you be prompt for your pick-up and drop-off appointments.
We have found that this intervention is beneficial to the majority of patients who try it. While the results do vary as with any other treatment, many patients feel that it was definitely worthwhile, and many are so impressed, they opt to continue the treatment indefinitely through purchasing their own chamber. Please call our office for exact prices and to answer any additional questions you may have about HBOT rental.
Although most people do not experience any negative side-effects from hyperbaric oxygen treatments (other than “ear-popping” sensations during pressurization), some temporary side-effects are possible. Most of the time, patients report a wonderful increase in energy, mental clarity, and sense of well-being from HBOT. If a patient is very toxic, or infected with lots of bad gastrointestinal or systemic organisms, then they may experience a detox reaction, and/or a “die-off” reaction early on in the treatment course. As HBOT helps in the detoxification of a patient, metals and other toxins may be stirred up from storage sites in the body on their way out through urine and stool. Under these circumstances, it is not unusual to experience irritability or hyperactivity for a day or two after a treatment. Treating with glutathione, vitamin C and other antioxidants is helpful with this. Die-off of toxic organisms can also cause temporary nausea or fatigue. Using activated charcoal or Alka Seltzer Gold helps to minimize this symptom. Both of these reactions are temporary, and are usually followed by signs of clinical improvement in the patient. Idiosyncratic or unusual reactions that are not listed here are possible. Please report any side-effects to the hyperbaric technician, and/or your doctor. The following is a list of the most common side-effects from HBOT:
Common side-effects of Hyberbaric Oxygen Therapy:
- Ear and sinus discomfort – due to the changes in pressure within the chamber. (Can be minimized by techniques to “pop” the ears, or by inflating more slowly.)
- Temporary blurry vision
- Temporary headache or nausea – Can be caused by die-off of pathogenic organisms and/or enhanced detoxification
- Temporary drowsiness
- Temporary hyperactivity
- Temporary neurological regression – from die-off, or enhanced detoxification and mobilization of toxins
- Temporary dizziness
- Temporary claustrophobia – This can be reduced by relaxation techniques and maintaining communication with an outside person
Our goal at Optimal Health Spectrums is to make your hyperbaric oxygen treatment experience safe and comfortable, and of course, very beneficial to your health!