By Udo Kim, Senior Manager, Expatriate Market Segment at Bumrungrad International Hospital
Normally, the air we breathe contains only about 20% oxygen. However, with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients are able to breathe 100% pure oxygen. When a patient receives oxygen in conjunction with increased atmospheric pressure, this allows blood plasma to carry many times more oxygen to the tissue than is possible under normal atmospheric pressure — which helps in the healing process.
Benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
- Promotes and stimulates tissue and capillary growth; when the body develops new capillaries, oxygen therapy helps to improve blood flow to organs that lack sufficient oxygen and blood, thus helping wounds to heal more quickly.
- Improves the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria
- Helps to prevent and fight certain types of infections
- Helps to reduce tissue swelling
- Can reduce the size of bubbles in tissues and blood vessels, for example, in cases of air or gas embolism
The medical community has currently adopted the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a wide variety of cases. For example, it has been used to help improve the quality of life for patients with cancer, for patients with brain dysfunction, for those with chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as for those suffering from sports injuries.
With regard to the procedure itself, before a patient undergoes hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the doctor will examine the patient’s physical condition and administer a chest x-ray in order to ensure the patient’s safety and prevent any possible complications. The procedure can then be carried out as follows:
- Clothing will be provided for the patient to change into.
- The patient will lie on a stretcher that slides into the hyperbaric chamber.
- A physician or nursing professional will release 100% pure oxygen, filling the chamber, and will gradually increase the oxygen pressure to greater than normal. The patient may experience some mild ear popping or ringing at the start. The attending physician or nurse will monitor the patient continuously and will be able to communicate with the patient at any time during the procedure via a speaker attached to the chamber.
- The patient will be able to adjust their posture or position so that they are comfortable and relaxed throughout the procedure. They may choose to watch television or simply to sleep and rest while the procedure is taking place.
- The therapy session will last about 60-90 minutes. The number of HBOT treatments the patient will need depends on the purpose of the treatment and how well the patient responds to the therapy.
- Once the session is complete, the physician or nurse will slowly depressurize the chamber to normal atmospheric pressure, and will then help the patient out of the chamber.
- For outpatient cases, the patient can then change back into their clothes and return home without the need for an overnight stay in the hospital.