Center for Hyperbaric Medicine: FAQs

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric chamber hallway

Hyperbaric oxygen is a specialized medical treatment during which you breathe 100 percent oxygen from a mask or hood while you are inside a chamber (room) where the atmospheric pressure is higher than normal. Our chambers are large enough for four to eight patients to receive treatment in one room at the same time. We have three of these multiplace chambers. We also have a single person chamber which is used for selected patients.

The purpose of hyperbaric oxygen treatment is to dissolve high concentrations of oxygen in your blood and tissues. That is what happens when you breath 100 percent oxygen inside the pressurized chamber. Certain types of infections, tissue injuries, and poisonings can be treated effectively if the body is saturated with oxygen in this way.

What conditions are treated with hyperbaric oxygen?

Hyperbaric oxygen has been used safely and effectively for more than 50 years to treat certain medical conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene and decompression sickness (also known as diver's bends).

Patients in chamber

In the last 3 decades, hyperbaric oxygen has been shown to be effective in treating a number of other conditions, including, for example, bone infection that has not responded to customary treatment, damage to tissues from radiation therapy, crush injuries, diabetic foot ulcers, non healing surgical sites, and tissue grafts and flaps that aren’t doing well. 

How can I arrange to have hyperbaric oxygen treatment?

Your doctor will need to make a request to the hyperbaric physician for consultation on your case. Then you may make an appointment for this consultation.

How often are hyperbaric treatments given?

Most patients are treated once a day, 5 days a week. Emergency patients are treated when they need it, regardless of the day or time. Depending on your condition, the hyperbaric medicine physician will determine the number of treatments you need, as well as the duration of each treatment and the atmospheric pressure during the treatment.

What are the treatments like?

Patient with oxygen hood

During the treatment you will rest comfortably in your chair in the well lit hyperbaric chamber. There are usually several patients in the room with you and there is always a medical attendant in the chamber also. The chamber is filled with pressurized air and you will breathe oxygen. Most treatments last about 2 hours.

During treatment, patients may read a book, do crossword puzzles, listen to music, or sleep. At the beginning of each treatment, you will feel the air pressure changes in your ears. You will receive instruction on how to equalize ear pressure prior to starting treatment. There are no unusual sensations associated with breathing 100 percent oxygen. "Air breaks" are given every 30 minutes and water is available to drink during these breaks. You will feel just as good at the end of the treatment as you did at the beginning. Treatment does not interfere with the ability to work or drive. 

What should I expect at my consultation visit with the hyperbaric physician?

Hyperbaric Chamber Staff at Nurses Station Photo

Your physician consultation at HCMC will include a complete review of your medical history and medical records, a physical examination, a recommendation for or against hyperbaric oxygen treatment, and detailed explanation of the benefits and risks of this treatment. You are encouraged to bring a current list of all your medications and to bring a family member with you. In most cases, you will not have a hyperbaric treatment on this day. A chest xray and some laboratory tests will be required before your first treatment. These may be done at your own physician’s office.

Who should I call if I have questions or concerns?

If you have questions, need to cancel an appointment, or have problems, call the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at 612-873-7420 and ask to speak to a nurse. If you need to talk to a hyperbaric physician, the nurse will arrange that for you.