Medhealth Review

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: The Future of Healing?

The term “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy”, or HBOT, is one that is often unfamiliar to many in the United States. Although this treatment has been in use since the 1800’s, it has only been within the last 50 years or so that HBOT has been used more frequently for a growing number of neurological conditions and as an alternative treatment for many more disorders. It was not until the 1960’s that HBOT really began to be a part of traditional medical treatments, primarily due to its known effects on healing gas gangrene, chronic infections, diabetic foot wounds, decompression sickness (aka “the bends”) after scuba diving, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Currently, insurance will only cover 14 conditions to be treated with HBOT. Despite this, many centers and clinics around the world have expanded the use of HBOT as an alternative treatment for much more. Research is ongoing and readily available for a multitude of disorders showing the benefits and promise of HBOT, leading to the question: Could this change the way that health conditions are treated? 

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a nonintrusive and specialized form of medical treatment administered by delivering 100% pure oxygen to the body. The body naturally uses oxygen to heal, so increasing the amount of oxygen being delivered to the body and into the bloodstream dramatically accelerates the body’s ability to heal. A person will lay or sit inside of a hard-sided, enclosed chamber while pure oxygen is delivered through a controlled and stable environment with increased atmospheric pressure. Inside the chamber, all the person has to do is breathe. Normal air only has oxygen levels of 21% so the difference is dramatic! This form of treatment is often used to naturally accelerate and promote the healing process, making it a common recovery option for many doctors and hospitals. 

How Does it Work?

When there is a restriction (occlusion) 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. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) 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 optimal environment for the body’s natural healing processes to repair damaged tissue.

At pressures greater than normal, the body can incorporate more oxygen into blood cells, blood plasma, cerebral-spinal fluid, and other bodily fluids. Once a person is in the increased atmospheric pressure, the body responds by reducing inflammation. With the inflammation reduced, blood flow to cells increases, enhancing the delivery of oxygen to oxygen-deprived areas.

At this point, the body’s healing process accelerates.

The body’s natural healing mechanisms can now function efficiently because the damaged tissues are receiving more oxygen. Even when the blood supply has been compromised, tissues can still receive the healing benefits of oxygen from other body fluids and plasma in the surrounding area. 

Alternative Conditions/Treatments

After seeing the dramatic improvements HBOT treatments have had on patients, several medical centers around the country are beginning to use the treatments for more non-traditional conditions. Research has shown that HBOT can help with more conditions than just those 14 that are covered by insurance. Significant improvements have been reported in many conditions such as: Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Strokes, Autism, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Concussions, and many more. Some centers and clinics around the world offer HBOT for these conditions, as well as those accepted by insurance. In fact, many countries around the world have more than 14 approved conditions that will be covered by insurance. The anti-inflammatory and natural healing capabilities of HBOT may contribute to improvements in a vast number of conditions outside of those few insurance-accepted conditions. Some centers also use HBOT as an adjunctive therapy to other traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation for individuals with cancer, as a way to maximize results for patients. Many centers are finding that the natural healing possibility of HBOT is changing the way these conditions are typically treated.

Results & Findings

Medical centers have been seeing outstanding results since they started using HBOT for non-traditional conditions. Patients and doctors are noticing a dramatic improvement of symptoms even years after the condition or injury began/occurred. 

For those with neurological conditions or a traumatic brain injury, HBOT has been reported to have a significant improvement in cognitive symptoms, brain perfusion, reactivates neuronal activity in stunned areas of the brain, reduced brain edema, and repairing tissue. In the past, some heart attack survivors who have used HBOT say their doctors can no longer find evidence of damage or scarring on their heart. Studies have shown that individuals with developmental disorders, like autism spectrum disorder, have found that HBOT can reduce inflammation and improve brain function which would show improvements in communication, motor skills, and overall behavior. For individuals with memory conditions, like Parkinson’s Disease, HBOT can improve neurological outcomes by increasing enzymes in the body that protect cells and prevents neuronal damage. It has also been shown to decrease depression, anxiety, and tremors in patients with Parkinson’s Disease. The possibility for healing and improvement for alternative conditions truly seem to be endless. 

With such promising results of using HBOT treatments for so many different conditions, medical centers around the world are working tirelessly to complete and publish research to help share the natural healing power of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy with others. 

In Summary

In conclusion, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that is bursting with potential for promoting healing in the United States. HBOT has been used for decades, and covered by insurances, to aid in the healing of certain conditions by hospitals and specialized medical centers, but recent years have shown that HBOT holds great promise for much more. Many centers have begun using HBOT as a way to naturally promote healing for numerous alternative conditions not covered by insurances and have been seeing very promising results. For these centers, and many more to come, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is truly the future of healing.

By Alysia Shinaberry, Marketing Assistant/Creative Writer, The Oxford Center

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