Information and FAQs for Patients: Facility and Treatments

hyperbaric unit

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a medical treatment that allows patients to breathe 100% oxygen inside an enclosed chamber at increased pressure. The increased pressure and increased oxygen concentration raises the oxygen content in the blood and other tissues

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work?

Normal atmospheric pressure is 14.7 PSI (pounds per square inch). At this pressure we breathe 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. During treatment, the pressure is increased two to three times normal atmospheric pressure (2.0-3.0 ATA) and 100% oxygen is delivered for breathing. A greater amount of oxygen is dissolved in the bloodstream and carried to the body tissues in amounts sufficient to promote healing. Hyperbaric oxygen treatments provide your body with one or more of the following:

  • increased oxygen delivered to injured tissue
  • formation of new small blood vessels
  • improved infection control
  • elimination of carbon monoxide
  • enhanced wound healing

How is the treatment given?

Image of a monoplace chamber.

There are two types of chambers: monoplace and multiplace. Multiplace chambers are "rooms" that are compressed with air while the patient breathes 100% oxygen by a face mask or hood.

At University Hospital we use monoplace chambers. These clear acrylic chambers are compressed with 100% oxygen and therefore a mask or hood are not needed. Each chamber accommodates one patient.

How many treatments will I need?

A typical outpatient treatment schedule is 30-40 treatments delivered once daily, Monday-Friday, for 90-120 minutes each time. The number and frequency of treatments vary according to the patient's condition.

What does it feel like?

Once you are in the chamber and the door is closed, you will hear oxygen begin to flow. A nurse will sit by you and be in constant communication with you through a two way intercom. During the compression phase (a gradual increase in pressure) you may feel a fullness in your ears, similar to that which you may have experienced while driving in the mountains or flying in an airplane. This feeling of fullness is your ears' response to the change in pressure. Prior to beginning treatment, your nurse will demonstrate how to relieve this pressure. The rate of compression will be adjusted for your comfort. This phase of compression will last approximately 15 minutes.

When you have reached the level of pressure that has been prescribed you may watch T.V, rest or sleep during the remainder of the treatment. When your treatment is complete, the decompression phase is begun (a gradual decrease in pressure to normal). During this time you may feel a popping sensation in your ears. This is normal and will resolve as you return to normal surface pressure.

Are there any side effects?

Generally, patients experience no after-effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. However, some patients report a remaining "fullness" in their ears between treatments. If this should continue a hyperbaric Physician will prescribe medication to help relieve this.

Rarely, patients receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy develop temporary changes in eyesight. This is usually of short duration and eyesight should return to normal within a few months after the treatment is completed.

Like all medical treatments and procedures some risks are associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These complications are quite rare and will be discussed with you by the hyperbaric staff prior to initiation of treatment.

Are there any special preparations for hyperbaric oxygen treatment?

For your safety in the environment of increased oxygen concentration and increased atmosphere there are certain requirements that must be followed. No personal garments are allowed inside the chamber. A 100% gown cotton will be provided for you by the hyperbaric staff. No unnecessary items will be permitted in the chamber. These include but are not limited to matches: lighters, hearing aides, watches, jewelry, books, magazines, hard contact lenses, make-up, hair spray, lotions, ointments or oil on the skin.

It is highly recommended you stop smoking prior to the initiation of, and for the duration of HBO2 therapy. Smoking greatly reduces the effectiveness of treatments.

What Conditions Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treat?

Most often patients are referred for enhancement of healing of irradiated tissue, either prior to surgical intervention and/or to enhance post-surgical healing. We also treat patients with carbon monoxide poisoning, post flap/graft surgery, reattachment of amputated body parts and chronic non-healing wounds.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is frequently an additional part of your overall care which may also include antibiotics, surgery, nutritional support, and other interventions recommended by your primary care physician.

The indications are based on recommendations of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society and very strictly followed.

See HBO Conditions for more detailed information on conditions treated with hyperbaric therapy.

How are patients referred for treatment?

Patients must be referred by their primary care physician. A letter of referral is required, in non-emergent cases, requesting consultation by our hyperbaric physicians. A consultation will then be scheduled with the patient and a plan of care recommended.

Emergency admissions can be accepted by telephone consult from an Attending Physician.

Hours of operation:

The Hyperbaric Medicine Unit is open Monday through Friday, 7:00-3:30. The unit phone number is 315 464-4910. Coverage for emergencies is provided after hours by calling the unit number and following the directions.

Will my insurance cover hyperbaric oxygen treatment?

We accept most insurance plans. However individual plans vary. It is recommended you contact your insurance company for information regarding coverage.