Tissues in our body need adequate supply of oxygen to function properly. Normally, oxygen is carried to the tissues only by hemoglobin present in red blood cells (RBCs) in our blood. In cases of injury, trauma and several other conditions the requirement of oxygen for these tissues increases, necessary for their healing.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which involves the intermittent inhalation of 100% oxygen under a pressure which is greater than 1 atm; the pressure can be increased and controlled. With the help of HBOT, oxygen dissolves into all the fluids of our body like the plasma, the lymph and the Central Nervous System fluids and is carried to areas of the body where circulation has been diminished and maybe even completely blocked. The extra oxygen reaching all the damaged tissues supports the healing process of the body by amplifying the white blood cells (WBCs) ability to kill bacteria, reducing inflammation as well as allowing rapid growth of new blood vessels into the affected areas of the body. Conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, chronic fatigue, head injuries, severe anemia and carbon monoxide poisoning are few of the many conditions known to have responded positively to HBOT.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an outpatient procedure done between an hour and hour and a half, not requiring hospitalization. Patient requiring HBOT can be administered systemic oxygen via 2 basic chambers:
- Multiplace chamber: This type of chamber treats multiple patients at once; here oxygen is delivered to patients through a mask or a close-fitting plastic hood. These chambers can be pressurized to an equivalent of 6atm of pressure. If a patient needs a different mixture of gases, it is given via the mask only to that particular patient. Generally a nurse or a trained technician, who helps in monitoring the patients and assists equipment manipulation or emergencies, is present in the chamber.
- Monoplace chamber: This type treats a single person at a time. The person is kept in a reclining position; the pressurized gas used is 100% oxygen. Nurses or trained technicians closely monitor the patients outside the see through chamber; this also helps patients communicate with the attending person via an intercom.
Eden Carlson a 2 year old who was found floating face down in water after spending at least 10 minutes underwater of their swimming pool by her mother was technically dead for 2hours( no heartbeat). Five weeks after she was discharged from the hospital, her parents were given an oxygen tank to help resuscitate her if she stopped breathing. She had become unresponsive to all stimuli, was immobile and was constantly squirming. MRI scans showed serious damage to her brain, both white and grey matter After a lot of research her parents contacted Dr. Paul Harch, a clinical professor at LSU, New Orleans; he offered an experimental treatment, long used to treat sea divers of decompression sickness. The oxygen therapy helped restore her ability to walk and talk, reversing the brain damage just months after the accident had occurred; nothing less than a miracle.
Curt Allen Jr. a 17 year old involved in a high speed motor vehicle accident had sustained severe traumatic brain injury, made him to go into a coma at the scene of the accident. He underwent brain surgery to relieve the pressure and was placed in an ICU in a critical condition. Three months of post-acute brain injury rehabilitation seemed to make not much of a difference. A physician patient of Dr. Harch who had undergone low pressure HBOT for stroke and subsequent brain damage referred Curt’s mother to him; Curt also underwent therapy and showed astounding recovery.
Hyperbaric therapy has been accepted as a medical treatment for decades now though it began with undersea medicine for decompression sickness and air embolism. It helps improve the quality of life in areas where standard medicine doesn’t seem to work. It does have few side effects like all medical treatments but overall it’s extremely safe.
Article by Srividya.