What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment?
HBOT (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy) involves using oxygen for medical purposes in high pressure environments that exceed one ATA (Atmosphere Absolute). Higher pressure enables oxygen to break up and absorb into blood plasma (separate from red blood cells/hemoglobin). This results in a wide range of desirable cellular, biochemical and physiological outcomes. This noninvasive treatment is a reliable way of boosting levels of oxygen to all the body’s organs. Normal treatment times are up to ninety minutes, and patients just have to breathe naturally while lying down.
Typically, the air we inhale consists of seventy-eight percent nitrogen, twenty-one percent oxygen, and one percent carbon dioxide and noble gases. These gases have concentrations that are governed by atmospheric pressure, which in turn is governed the weather. At altitude, the concentrations are reduced. Regrettably, conventional medical practices ignore these pressure variations. Pressure in the atmosphere is assigned the unit one, to represent absolute atmospheric pressure (one ATA). ATA units are divided, based on atmospheric gas percentages to provide ‘partial pressures’, which make up the whole pressure that all gases are accountable for. Nitrogen, therefore, is 0.78 ATA (seventy-eight percent of one), and oxygen is 0.21 ATA (twenty-one percent of one).
Hyperbaric chambers are required to enable pressure round the patient’s body to be raised. This technology is widely used — actually, all commercial aeroplanes are essentially hyperbaric chambers, complete with oxygen units for breathing. A qualified professional will be present to activate the barochamber. Sometimes, this person will accompany patients into the chamber.
The History of HBOT
The HBOT treatment has its’ origins in the seventeenth century. The first official chamber was constructed in 1662, and run by a British priest called Henshaw. He built a chamber known as the Domicilium, which was utilized to remedy a range of ailments. French physiologist, Paul Bert, discovered the connection between bubbles of nitrogen and decompression sickness in 1878. Bert subsequently found that recompression was an effective way of easing pain. In 1879, French surgeon Fontaine carried on treating patients in pressurized environments, by building a mobile pressurized operating theater. Fontaine discovered that, in pressurized conditions, breathing nitrous oxide in had a more potent effect, and that his patients experienced enhanced oxygenation levels.
During the early twentieth century, anesthesia professor Orville Cunningham found that patients with certain heart conditions benefited if they lived nearer to sea level, compared to those who lived at higher altitudes. Cunningham treated an influenza sufferer, who was close to death because of lung restriction. His success with this resulted in him developing what became known as ‘Steel Ball Hospital’ — situated on the Lake Erie shores. This building, constructed in 1928, was sixty-four foot in diameter and had six stories. It was capable of reaching three ATA. Regrettably, because of the economy’s poor financial status, the hospital was demolished for scrap in 1942.
After this, hyperbaric chambers were used by the army during the forties, to help divers who were suffering from decompression illnesses. In the fifties, doctors used HBOT for the first time for lung and heart surgery, which resulted in it being subsequently used for CO poisoning in the sixties. Ever since, thousands of case studies and clinical tests have been carried out for many other health related uses, and most of these have been extremely successful.
How HBOT can Help to Recover Tissue
Oxygen is absorbed into the blood, then transported (along with haemoglobin inside red blood cells) across the body. Next, the absorbed oxygen enters the tissues. Inhaling high oxygen levels in hyperbaric environments leads to an increased oxygen uptake by bodily fluids. This means that more oxygen can get to areas where circulation is obstructed or reduced, thereby facilitating recovery. The additional oxygen has other advantages, because it makes it easier for bacteria to be destroyed by white blood cells. Also, it lowers swelling and enables fresh blood vessels to develop more quickly in the afflicted areas.
Oxygen deprivation (or tissue hypoxia) has lots of negative effects from disrupting normal cell activity, such as fainting and the disabling of white blood cells during infection. Oxygen administration is the only way of ‘treating’ hypoxia. The goal with this treatment is to introduce values of tissue oxygen suitable for the start of normal healing.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment? – Final Thoughts
Numerous scientific studies have shown HBOT to be effective at improving the body’s ability to regenerate and repair. In addition, this treatment is used as supplemental therapy, to enhance and complement the process of healing in acute and chronic conditions.
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