Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Defined
Hyper" means increased and "baric" relates to pressure. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) thus refers to intermittent treatment of the entire body with 100-percent oxygen at greater than normal atmospheric pressures. The earth's atmosphere normally exerts approximately 15 pounds per square inch of pressure at sea level. That pressure is defined as one atmosphere absolute (abbreviated as 1 ATA). In the ambient atmosphere we normally breathe approximately 20 percent oxygen and 80 percent nitrogen. While undergoing HBOT, pressure is increased up to two times (2 ATA) in 100% oxygen. In the Sechrist monoplace chambers utilized at our facilities, the entire body is totally immersed in 100-percent oxygen. There is no need to wear a mask or hood. This increased pressure, combined with an increase in oxygen to 100 percent, dissolves oxygen in the blood plasma and in all body cells, tissues and fluids at up to 10 times normal concentration high enough to sustain life with no blood at all (from 20% to 100% oxygen is a 5-fold increase, from 1 ATA to 2 ATA can double this again to a 10-fold or 1,000% increase).
While some of the mechanisms of action of HBOT, as they apply to healing and reversal of symptoms, are yet to be discovered, it is known that HBOT:
1) greatly increases oxygen concentration in all body tissues, even with reduced or blocked blood flow;
2) stimulates the growth of new blood vessels to locations with reduced circulation, improving blood flow to areas with arterial blockage;
3) causes a rebound arterial dilation after HBOT, resulting in an increased blood vessel diameter greater than when therapy began, improving blood flow to compromised organs;
4) stimulates an adaptive increase in superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of the body's principal, internally produced antioxidants and free radical scavengers; and,
5) aids the treatment of infection by enhancing white blood cell action and potentiating germ-killing antibiotics.
While not new, HBOT has only lately begun to gain recognition for treatment of chronic degenerative health problems related to atherosclerosis, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, diabetic ulcers, wound healing, cerebral palsy, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, and many other disorders. Wherever blood flow and oxygen delivery to vital organs is reduced, function and healing can potentially be aided with HBOT. When the brain is injured by stroke, CP, or trauma, HBO may wake up stunned parts of the brain to restore function.