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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) Program at NewYork-Presbyterian provides an unsurpassed level of care and treatment in a state-of-the-art setting where your comfort is foremost.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows you to breathe 100% oxygen under increased pressure. This level is much higher than the 21% oxygen found in room air. The air inside the hyperbaric chamber can be compressed up to three times the pressure found at sea level. This pressure is similar to that which is felt when diving underwater down to 66 feet. The combination of high pressure and pure oxygen drives the life-giving oxygen into the bloodstream at a very high concentration so that it can spread deep into the body tissues to help promote healing.

What conditions can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Originally this treatment was used to help divers who developed decompression sickness, commonly called "the bends", from surfacing too quickly. The treatment is still used for "the bends", but is also used to treat many other diseases/ailments, including:

  • Wounds. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides diabetic ulcers, radiation injury, damaged soft tissues and chronic non-healing wounds with extra oxygen to support the growth of new blood vessels that can replace those which may have been damaged
  • Carbon monoxide/Cyanide poisoning. For these individuals hyperbaric oxygen forces the toxic gasses out of the blood stream and provides extra amounts of oxygen to help damaged tissues recover more rapidly. Rapid removal of toxins is thought to prevent long term neurological defects
  • Infections. Hyperbaric oxygen augments the body's ability to kill bacteria in wounds such as gas gangrene or bone infections
Other conditions

Depending on the specific condition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be provided in conjunction with other treatments. Our team of doctors will work with your referring physician to develop the best care plan for your needs.

Will I need any special tests prior to beginning hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Certain diagnostic tests may be required prior to therapy. Your doctor may recommend specific testing, such as a transcutaneous oxygen measurement, bone scan, or MRI, to determine if hyperbaric therapy is appropriate for you. All patients require a chest x-ray prior to treatment.

How will I feel during hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

The treatment is generally painless. Patients sit comfortably or recline during the treatment in a large glass covered chamber, while resting or watching television You will experience a sense of fullness in the ears at the beginning and end of treatment as the pressure is adjusted. The sensation is similar to that which is felt when flying in an airplane or diving under water.

You will be taught a simple maneuver to avoid ear discomfort. Some patients will hear a crackling noise in their ears between treatments, which is relieved using the same pressure maneuvers. If the crackling continues it should be reported to the staff.

Some patients feel light-headed for a few moments following the treatment, but this is generally very brief.

Are there any after-effects associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Some patients may develop changes in eyesight, temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by increased blood oxygen levels. In these cases, vision should return to pre-treatment status within eight weeks of the completion of the treatments. There are other less common side effects and risks, which will be discussed before the therapy begins.

How many treatments will I need?

You may require several treatments. The number will depend on your specific problem and response to therapy.

  • Emergency conditions are generally treated with 1 to 10 treatments during the first week
  • Long-standing infections and other wounds may need 20 to 60 treatments over the course of several weeks
  • Patients in the hospital will receive treatments once or twice daily
  • Outpatients will be treated once daily, five days per week

About Insurance

We accept most insurance plans at our center. Prior to treatment, insurance pre-certification will be obtained. We are not able to treat conditions that are not authorized by your insurance carrier. Hyperbaric oxygen is a treatment which must be prescribed by a physician for a specific condition.

What are the Do's and Don'ts to follow during the course of treatment?

For your comfort and safety, please:

  • Provide a complete list of all your current medications, including those which are available without a prescription. Hyperbaric oxygen may interact with some medications. We require a complete list of all medications that you are taking so that we may review it with your physicians.
  • Before your treatments, notify the Hyperbaric treatment center staff if you have symptoms of a cold or flu. Often it's best to delay treatment until these symptoms subside.
  • Remove the following immediately before entering the chamber:
    • Dentures, or partial plates. All jewelry and other personal items. Each day you will be provided with special 100% cotton garments to wear during your treatments.
    • Do not bring flammable substances. Oxygen is highly flammable. No cigarettes, matches, cigarette lighters or other flammable substances may be brought inside the chamber
  • Do not use any tobacco products .
    • Hyperbaric oxygen is not effective in smokers and can even be counter-productive because of the side effects of nicotine.
  • Do not use oil or alcohol based grooming products before entering the chamber
  • Hairspray, makeup, perfume and aftershave should not be worn.
  • Do not bring any valuable items with you.
    • Although lockers are available for clothing and other items, we recommend that you leave valuables at home.

Continuous supervision and monitoring are provided during the treatment. Our skilled staff of professional registered nurses and respiratory therapists offers a multidisciplinary approach to promote the healing process.

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