Under normal circumstances, oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells. With HBOT, oxygen is dissolved into all of the body’s fluids, including the blood plasma and lymph.
Then it can be carried to areas where circulation is diminished or blocked.
The increased concentration means that the gradient for the transport of free oxygen from blood into the tissues is increased at least 10 fold.
In this way, extra oxygen can reach damaged tissues and the body can support its own healing process.
The increased oxygen also greatly enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, reduces swelling and allows new blood vessels to grow more rapidly into the affected areas.
It is a simple, non-invasive and painless treatment.
The sequence below explains the process:
1. Normal Blood Flow
There is 20% oxygen in the air that we breathe, and our lungs transfer this oxygen to our red blood cells via hemoglobin.
These oxygen-filled red blood cells are carried around the body by the plasma fluid, which travels through the blood vessels.
The oxygen diffuses into the surrounding tissue ensuring that it is delivered to where it is needed most.
2. Restricted Blood Flow
When there is a restriction in blood flow due to surgery, illness, or injury, the red blood cells block the blood vessel and are unable to transfer oxygen to the cells on the other side of the occlusion.
This can cause swelling, reduces blood flow and starves the area of oxygen. When this occurs the tissue, cells, and organs begin to break down, degenerate and die. This is what causes problem wounds, diabetic foot problems and the long term tissue damage with radiation treatment.
3. Hyperbaric Oxygenation
Breathing 100% oxygen under pressure causes the oxygen to diffuse into the blood plasma. This, now oxygen-rich plasma is able to travel past the restriction, diffusing many times further into the tissue.
The pressurized environment helps to reduce swelling and discomfort while providing the body with at least 10 times its normal supply of oxygen to help repair tissue damaged by the original occlusion caused by your medical condition.
4. Blood Vessel Regeneration (Angiogenesis)
HBOT also forces more oxygen into the tissue, encouraging the formation of new blood vessels.
As these new blood vessels develop, the red blood cells start to flow, delivering even more oxygen to the affected area.
This creates the best environment for the body’s natural healing processes to repair damaged tissue. HBOT has the potential to effectively resolve tissue, cells and organ function as well as reducing rehabilitation time.
How to get HBOT
To get treatment at your local chamber you will need to be referred by either:
- Your GP
- Your consultant in charge of your condition
How much HBOT costs
All HBOT chambers have a range of fees per treatment that depend on:
- how many other patients are being treated at the same time
- the particular case
- access to the chamber e.g. lying down patients take more room than sitting and so decrease the number of others that can be treated at the same time
- how the oxygen is given- simple hood or mask versus oxygen via tracheostomy
- how many treatments are given
For a medical issue that needs HBOT you will need to call your insurer to get them to agree to fund.
The chamber will then sort the payments out with the insurer.
After your NHS GP or Consultant has referred you to a chamber, and the chamber doctor has agreed that HBOT will help, the chamber will apply to your local PCT for funding.
It can take a long time for the PCT to agree to fund the treatment. Once they have agreed to fund, treatment will start.
This can be the quickest way to initiate treatment if you do not have Health Insurance.
Most chambers will make a funding plan to help you start treatment as soon as possible.
What conditions can HBOT treat?
Hyperbaric oxygen can be used to treat all conditions which benefit from increased tissue oxygen availability.
It can be helpful for anyone who is suffering from a wound that is slow to heal. Diabetic ulcers are prime examples of such wounds. They are graded in terms of their severity, which is usually related to the length of time the ulcer has existed. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can be useful for all grades of ulcer, by speeding healing and preventing the ulcer from deteriorating. This helps decrease the risk of unnecessary surgery or amputation. It also reduces long term costs such as the use of expensive dressings and frees up hospital beds and staff.
In the UK, we follow similar guidelines to those used in the USA as to what HBOT cases we treat and that the NHS will fund.
- “the bends” in divers
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- bubbles in the brain or arterial circulation
- retinal artery occlusion
- problem wounds
- radiation tissue damage
- soft tissue infections and ulcers as found in diabetic feet
There are many more conditions that HBOT is used to treat in other European countries, which are still seen as “off-label” in the UK.
- Sudden deafness
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cerebral Palsy and Autism
- Placental insufficiency
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Oxygen Healing will only recommend HBOT chambers where the doctors there make sure there is enough evidence supporting the use of HBOT for a particular problem.
In the USA, insurance companies recognize 14 approved uses for hyperbaric oxygen.