How Hyperbaric Medicine Combats Bacteria

How Hyperbaric Medicine Combats Bacteria

Hyperbaric medicine is a type of treatment that utilizes oxygen to help heal certain types of conditions and injuries. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is an option for patients with decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, some types of chronic wounds, and many other conditions. A physician can prescribe HBOT as part of a treatment plan for patients with a wound that is struggling to heal.

What Is HBOT?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a type of medical treatment that involves breathing 100% oxygen while resting in a pressurized chamber. The pressure in the chamber is usually between 1.5 to 3 times higher than normal air pressure. Your lungs can breathe in more oxygen at this increased pressure than they would be able to at normal air pressure. Oxygen helps your tissue heal, so the treatment aims to provide your body with more oxygen to expedite the healing process.

How Does Hyperbaric Medicine Combat Bacteria?

Hyperbaric medicine can improve your immune system, which naturally helps your body fight bacteria and infections. Other ways that HBOT can help combat bacteria include:

Disabling Toxins

HBOT can disable toxins that are released by certain types of bacteria. These toxins can start to decrease as HBOT introduces more oxygen into the bloodstream.

Restoring White Blood Cells’ Ability To Kill Bacteria

Inadequate levels of oxygen can affect white blood cells’ ability to kill and fight bacteria. When HBOT delivers more oxygen to the blood, it can help restore their ability to fend off bacterial invaders.

Decreasing the Spread of Infection

Oxygen reduces inflammation, which can help decrease tissue damage. When tissue is healthy, it is less prone to bacteria and infection. HBOT delivers more oxygen to the blood to help heal tissue and reduce infection.

What Conditions Can HBOT Treat?

HBOT was first successfully used by the U.S. Navy in the 1940s to treat decompression sickness. About twenty years later, hyperbaric oxygen therapy started treating carbon monoxide poisoning. Today, the therapy helps treat many more conditions, including:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness
  • Chronic wounds
  • Gas gangrene
  • Crush injuries
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Skin grafts and flaps
  • Flesh-eating diseases
  • Bone infection

There are other conditions that HBOT can help treat, and researchers are still finding more uses for the therapy. Physicians might use HBOT as a complementary treatment with other conditions to help speed healing.

What To Expect During HBOT

During HBOT treatment, you will enter a hyperbaric chamber that will begin to pressurize and fill with oxygen. You can relax during the treatment. Some treatment centers will have a TV for you to watch, or you can take a nap. You may experience some pressure in your ears, as you do when taking off or landing in an airplane, but you can pop your ears as you regularly would for relief. While you are resting, your blood delivers oxygen to your tissues to start healing.

Different Types of Hyperbaric Chambers

Depending on the medical center, you might receive HBOT in a monoplace chamber or a multiplace chamber.

Monoplace Chamber

Monoplace chambers are tubes that can only accommodate one patient at a time.

Multiplace Chamber

Multiplace chambers can treat two or more patients simultaneously. The patients usually wear a mask or a hood to receive oxygen.

How Long Do Treatments Take?

Treatments usually last between sixty to ninety minutes, depending on the condition that the patient is receiving treatment. The number of necessary treatments will also vary depending on the condition. Acute conditions, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, can generally be treated in one to two sessions, but chronic conditions can require thirty or more sessions.

Possible Side Effects

The most common side effect is feeling light-headed after receiving treatment. While it should only last a while, physicians recommend that somebody else drive you home after you’ve received HBOT. HBOT has few serious side effects and risks, but there are some people who should not use this type of treatment. Patients with recent ear surgery and certain lung diseases might not be a good fit for HBOT. Patients should also avoid hyperbaric oxygen therapy if they have a cold or fever.

How Can I Get HBOT?

If you think you would be a good candidate for HBOT, speak with your physician to get a prescription. You can then make an appointment with a medical facility that offers hyperbaric medicine.


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