What is a hyperbaric oxygen chamber?

A hyperbaric oxygen chamber is a steel vessel in which atmospheric pressure can be raised or lowered by air compressors and is made of pressure-resistant materials. In the chamber, the patient breathes in oxygen while the pressure inside the chamber is slowly increased. This results in the oxygen level in the patient's tissues and blood to rise.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses two types of hyperbaric oxygen chambers:

Monoplace hyperbaric oxygen chamber:
This is a chamber built for one person. It's a long tube-like structure that resembles an MRI machine. The patient slips into the chamber and lies down. It is slowly pressurized with 100% oxygen.

Multiplace hyperbaric oxygen chamber:
This chamber, or room, can fit two or more people at once. The only difference in the treatment is that people breathe pure oxygen through masks or hoods. The advanced multiplace chambers at the Sagol Center can seat up to 14 people, and medical professionals are in the chamber during treatment to assist when necessary.

Why use a hyperbaric oxygen chamber?

The main purpose of a hyperbaric chamber is to increase the amount of oxygen reaching one’s tissue through the respiratory system. Oxygen is an essential component of wound healing, and the lack of proper oxygen supply may impair the body's ability to heal its wounds. To achieve this healing, the amount of oxygen molecules present in each inhalation unit must be increased.

During the hyperbaric treatment, the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood is raised from 100 mm Hg to 1,100 mm Hg, and occasionally higher in some cases. As the amount of oxygen molecules found in the air increases, more oxygen is breathed in, absorbed into the bloodstream, and from there, it is absorbed into the various tissues in the body, helping to rebuild them.

What does the hyperbaric chamber feel like?

In general, there are no changes in sensation during treatment. However, when we increase the pressure in the chamber, patients may feel pressure in their ears, similar to the sensation one has on an airplane. Prior to starting the hyperbaric oxygen treatment, each patient is taught a technique on how to perform pressure equalization. When the pressure is lowered in the chamber, the ear pressure "loosens."

How does the treatment work, what is its duration, and is it painful?

Receiving treatment in the hyperbaric chamber means breathing oxygen at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. Your blood carries the extra oxygen throughout the body, infusing the injured tissues that need more oxygen so they can begin healing.

Although there is no pain, your ears may feel blocked as the pressure is raised. When a session is complete, you may feel lightheaded. Mild side effects include claustrophobia, fatigue, and headaches.

The duration of treatment depends on the reason for the treatment. Each session lasts an average of two hours.

What is prohibited in the chamber?

The air in the hyperbaric chamber is rich in oxygen, making it highly flammable. As such, it is prohibited to wear clothing that can produce static electricity, such as synthetic, woolen, or silk clothing. In addition, all electronic appliances, lighters, matches, chemical heaters, and oil-based makeup are strictly prohibited.

How does oxygen therapy affect our bodies?

Raising the oxygen level in the body has a vital effect on it and can do the following:

  • Encourage the creation of new blood vessels
  • Accelerate wound healing
  • Accelerate new bone tissue formation
  • Eliminate anaerobic infections
  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce damage from various toxins
  • Increase oxygen levels in hypoxic tissue (tissue with low oxygen)

What problems can be treated with a hyperbaric chamber?

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is appropriate for several chronic and critical problems:

  • Difficulty healing wounds due to diabetes or vascular issues
  • Delayed radiation damage to soft tissue and bone as a result of radiation therapy performed on the body
  • Combined rehabilitative surgery after radiation therapy
  • Bone infections that are non-responsive to treatment
  • Decompression sickness and air embolisms

Increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood also contributes to the treatment of other diverse problems, such as smoke inhalation (CO), loss of vision due to acute retinal artery obstruction, bruising, unhealed skin grafts, muscle necrosis, and spread of soft tissue.

Is the treatment given to the whole body or can it be given to a single organ?

Being treated in a hyperbaric chamber requires your whole body to receive the treatment. Providing oxygen to just one organ is not considered hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

Side effects

The side effects of treatment in a hyperbaric chamber are few, and the most common is ear pain or pressure. Other possible side effects are eye damage (myopia) and sinus problems, which generally clear up on their own several weeks after the end of the treatments. In very rare cases, a person can get oxygen poisoning. This can lead to seizures, fluid in the lungs, lung failure, or other problems; however, this can be cleared with the discontinuation of oxygen therapy.

Medical supervision during treatment

A medical staff member is present in the chamber during all treatments. In addition, another medical staff member monitors patients from outside the chamber with cameras that are inside the chamber throughout the treatment sessions.

Services, food, and smoking during treatment

Patients being treated in the hyperbaric chambers must wait until the end of the session before eating, smoking, or doing other activities. In emergency situations, you can leave the chamber before the treatment is over. As a rule, smoking should be avoided throughout the treatment period in the hyperbaric chamber. Patients can drink water during treatment.