Preparing for Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy: A Guide

According to Kate McKenney, patients at their facility participate in daily deep dives, but they never enter a lake, swimming pool, or other body of water. Rather, patients go inside a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which promotes quicker and more efficient healing of wounds.

According to McKenney, the administrative manager of the Michigan Medicine Comprehensive Wound Care Clinic, "We call our treatments 'dives' because our chamber is pressurized to 2.2 ATA (atmospheres absolute), which is the equivalent of scuba diving down 40 feet of seawater." "It's a unique treatment that not many people know about."

It could take more oxygen for damaged bodily tissue to recover. In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, wound healing and infection prevention are achieved by inhaling oxygen at high pressure.

The two most crucial components of the therapy are the oxygen hoods and pressurization. Your lungs absorb more oxygen thanks to the hoods, and your blood absorbs more oxygen as a result of the pressurization. By doing this, additional oxygen is given to bodily sections that might not be getting enough of it. It has been demonstrated that the additional oxygen can promote the release of stem cells and growth factors, aid in healing, and combat infection.

"Your blood and blood plasma can carry oxygen more efficiently because of the higher atmospheric pressure and the patient receiving 100% oxygen through the hood," says lead hyperbaric technician Rob DeLeon. "This saturates the body with oxygen and improves the body's effectiveness in healing wounds."

A physician may diagnose non-healing wounds from arterial disease, advanced diabetic foot ulcers, difficult-to-treat bone infections, and issues resulting from previous radiation therapy, which may manifest as radiation cystitis, avascular necrosis of the bone, or slowly healing soft tissue wounds. "We treat patients with a variety of diagnoses in our chamber," the clinic's medical director, Steven Haase, M.D., adds. "But each indication is backed up by scientific research and endorsed by experts in the field."

According to McKenney, hyperbaric medicine has been practiced for a very long period. "The U.S. Navy performed the first decompression sickness therapy in the 1930s. Since the 1950s or 1960s, treatments have been administered in healthcare settings. Navy research still serves as the foundation for our safety procedures, she says.

There are two kinds of chambers that patients could encounter. There are two types of chambers: monoplace chambers, which are best described as 'tubes,' and multiplace chambers, which are similar to rooms or miniature airplanes like the one we have here. According to McKenney, "They are smaller and made so that one person can lie down while receiving treatment."

Up to ten patients and two staff members receive therapy in the oxygen chamber at U-M for two and a half hours at a time.

"When a patient comes in, the chamber is pressurized, and once at pressure, a hood is placed on the patient, which provides them with 100% oxygen," adds McKenney.

People confined to Michigan Medicine's chamber at their Domino's Farms outpatient facility are free to rise and walk as they choose.

McKenney said, "Imagine it like an airplane cabin." "Patients sit together, there is a television and Netflix in there, and you get to know one another."

Patients take off the hood for ten minutes after wearing it for thirty. Staff personnel in the chamber keep a close eye on the patients. Before the daily therapy is over, that cycle occurs three times.

Before undergoing treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Haase and DeLeon advise being aware of the following five facts:

1. Avoid showing up to appointments sick.

If you have a cold or any other sickness, such as high blood pressure, fever, loose stools frequently, or flu-like symptoms, your treatment may be postponed. "If a patient has a cold, it could affect their ability to clear their ears, which could lead to inner ear injury," DeLeon explains.

2. It's best to avoid taking some medications right before.

Certain drugs may have different effects when exposed to oxygen. A few medications, including several chemotherapy treatments, a topical ointment for wounds, and a medication that forbids alcohol consumption in individuals with a history of alcohol dependence, cannot be taken in conjunction with therapy.

Make careful to mention any medications you are taking in advance with your doctor and other healthcare practitioners.

3. Give yourself a few hours to spend there.

Sessions of hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy typically take place once a day, five days a week, and run somewhat longer than two hours. Before the course of treatment is over, your doctor can recommend thirty or more treatments. The number of treatments you receive is frequently influenced by how quickly your disease gets better.

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The actual treatment lasts roughly 110 minutes, divided into two 10-minute air breaks and 90 minutes of oxygen. According to DeLeon, the remaining time is used for the ascent and descent.

4. At first, it could feel like you're on an airplane.

Some have compared the initial stages of this therapy like flying in an airplane. Your ears' internal pressure increases along with the pressure within the chamber, potentially giving you an ear-popping feeling.

"During out treatments we have protocols that help avoid putting a patient in a situation where they have fluid buildup or pain in their ears," DeLeon explains.

5. A few possible adverse effects to be mindful of.

Following therapy, it's typical to feel exhausted and to experience pain in your sinuses or ears as well as a build-up of fluid in your ears.

Being confined in the chamber could also cause anxiety if you have claustrophobia. Changes in vision and numbness in the fingers are possible, but these normally go away throughout treatment. It's possible that the elevated pressure and 100% oxygen intake will cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Rarely, the medication may cause convulsions or a collapsed lung in addition to possibly hastening the development of cataracts.

Only in cases of emphysema or other lung conditions where air might become trapped in tiny blebs, or blisters packed with fluid, and rupture with changes in pressure, would a patient experience a collapsed lung. However, Haase assures us that this is extremely, extremely rare.

While uncommon adverse effects are possible, McKenney points out that a licensed healthcare provider is always on site for the duration of your treatment—a requirement that is enforced nationwide.

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