Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is an FDA regulated procedure which delivers oxygen under hyperbaric, or increased, atmospheric pressure. Depending on the prescription, the pressure may range from a slight increase over standard sea level atmospheric pressure (1 ATA) up to the equivalent pressure of being 66 feet under water (3 ATA). As atmospheric pressure is increased, the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood and other body fluids such as plasma, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluids increases and diffuses into tissues at concentrations far greater than under normal atmospheric conditions. These oxygen enriched fluids reach low circulation areas by trickling past blockages or by seeping into affected areas. As more oxygen reaches damaged tissues, the body has a greater opportunity to support its own healing.
Hyperbaric medicine has primarily been used over the past century to treat divers stricken with decompression illness, more commonly known as "the bends". HBOT developed into a profoundly sucessful treatment for other conditions caused or complicated by hypoxia, insufficient oxygen. HBOT has been shown to have an impact on a multitude of disparate conditions because it treats a common secondary injury process, the inflammatory reaction. The body's inflammatory reaction causes most of the damage in many acute and chronic conditions . HBOT has a cumulative effect leading to permanent changes in cells and tissues with treatments geared towards remedying acute or chronic injuries.
Acutely, HBOT has been proven to be the most powerful inhibitor of reperfusion injury, which is the injury that occurs to tissue deprived of blood supply when blood flow is resumed. Chronically, HBOT acts as a signal inducer of DNA to effect trophic (growth) tissue changes.Dr. Paul Harch, a leader in the development of Hyperbaric Medicine
HBOT can be an excellent complementary treatment to existing therapies in an overall medical treatment protocol.
HBOT is safe, painless and non-invasive. At Health Essentials Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy we use monoplace (one person) chambers. Individual chambers assure maximum comfort by allowing time for the patient to equalize air pressure—a major distinction from "group" dives done at hospitals and in large multi-chamber tanks. For each treatment the pressure in the chamber is increased slowly, held constant for a prescribed amount of time, and then gradually decreased to ambient atmospheric pressure according to the needs of the patient.
As atmospheric pressure is increased in a hyperbaric chamber, more oxygen is dissolved into body fluids including blood, plasma, lymphatic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, and interstitial fluid. Under normal atmospheric pressure oxygen binds to the hemoglobin in red blood cells and is transported throughout the body. The increased pressure of HBOT dissolves up to 25 times normal levels of oxygen into the blood stream and the other body fluids, promoting increased oxygen delivery and concentration in all body tissues, including those with reduced or blocked blood flow. In fact, at higher hyperbaric pressures, plasma can supply all the required oxygen needed for a body at rest even in the absence of blood.
80% of energy used in cellular metabolism comes from oxygen. When cells and tissues are deprived of blood and oxygen, metabolism comes to a halt and cells stop functioning. This lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, is a major component of disease and aging. As more oxygen reaches damaged tissues, the body has a greater opportunity to support its own healing. Wherever blood flow and oxygen delivery is reduced, function and healing can improve with HBOT. It has also been shown to cause rebound arterial dilation, increasing blood vessel diameter and improving blood flow to compromised organs. Recent clinical research has demonstrated that while the core-area of damaged brain tissue may be irreversibly damaged, there is an area surrounding this tissue that HBOT can restore. These neurons can re-gain their ability to function properly.
Adult stem cells, or progenitor cells (SPC), are crucial to the repair of injured tissues. SPCs are mobilized by chemical signals sent from injured cells. They differentiate into more specialized cell types to replace or assist the existing cells. HBOT provides an important trigger or stimulus for this mobilization. A 2 hour HBOT session at 2 ATA has been clinically shown to double the quantity of circulating stem cells, and the typical course of HBOT treatments to increase circulating stem cells by 800%.
According to Stephen Thom, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and lead author of a study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulation Physiology on the effects of HBOT, "... hyperbaric oxygen mobilizes stem/progenitor cells because it increases synthesis of a molecule called nitric oxide in the bone marrow. This synthesis is thought to trigger enzymes that mediate stem/progenitor cell release."
As we age our bodies begin to lose the ability to naturally produce a sufficient number of SPCs to keep pace with bodily maintenance and healing needs. HBOT is the safest and most effective way to support increased SPC proliferation, most likely far safer than any pharmaceutical treatment option. While drugs are associated with a host of known side effects, HBOT carries with it a significantly lower risk of such effects. HBOT not only supports SPC production and mobilization, but it greatly facilitates treatments using stem cell-based therapies.
Inflammation, our bodies' protective response to disease and injury, is a cascade of biochemical events involving the local vascular system, the immune system, and various cells within the injured tissue. Chronic inflammation leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation and is characterized by simultaneous destruction and healing of the injured or diseased tissue. This causes a self-perpetuating cycle of inflammation. HBOT significantly decreases inflammation by stimulating the body's own anti-inflammatory defenses. Tissue edema (swelling) is reduced by hyperoxia (the hyperoxygenation of the body) which causes vasoconstriction, a narrowing of the blood vessels.
HBOT also inhibits white blood cells from sticking to the lining of vessels, diminishing tissue damage, and enhancing their mobility which improves microvascular blood flow. This significantly mitigates reperfusion injury which occurs when blood flow is restored after an interruption. HBOT has been shown to decrease inflammatory chemicals, such as lactic acid, cytokines, and free radicals, released by white blood cells. It also stimulates the body's internal free radical scavengers and antioxidants. Data also suggests that inflammation is in part responsible for the development of neuropathic pain. It is likely that HBOT decreases neuropathic pain through its anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Researchers have found that HBOT has an effect at the genetic level on DNA with an up-regulation of growth factor gene expression. Collagen is the connective tissue developed and laid down by fibroblasts, the repair cells of the body. It acts as a base layer in the healing wound and assists the wound to close and repair. The production of collagen by fibroblasts is dependent on oxygen availability. HBOT dramatically increases the oxygen available within the body which in turn enables strengthening of tissue through the stimulation and support of fibroblast replication leading to increased collagen deposition. The collagen matrix provides support for the growth of new capillary beds. The effect of HBOT on cellular signaling molecules and SPCs also increases both angiogenesis, the repair and formation of new blood vessels from existing vessels, and vasculogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels where none existed before. Dr. Paul Harch, a leader in Hyperbaric medicine notes, "Besides large vessel revascularization, to date only one therapy has been shown to consistently correct the shallow oxygen gradient and induce angiogenesis: HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY."
The defense mechanisms of compromised cells are restored by reversing tissue hypoxia and cellular dysfunction. HBOT also damages bacterial cellular DNA and enhances the oxygen dependent peroxidase system white blood cells use to kill bacteria. It has been shown to have a synergistic effect on certain antibiotics. These antibiotics use oxygen to transport across cell membranes. Anaerobic bacteria thrive in low-oxygen environments. HBOT stops their toxin production and inhibits these bacteria from replicating and spreading, and may help resolve or delay the onset of sepsis, a deadly blood poisoning. There is also evidence that HBOT is anti-fungal and anti-viral.
The reduction in inflammation and improvements in circulation caused by HBOT aid the body's natural detoxification process. HBOT also stimulates and increases the ability of white blood cells and their scavenger cells to clean up foreign matter in the bloodstream (including bacteria, fungi, dead cells and waste by-products). HBOT supported cellular signaling molecules limit the spread of invading pathogens. Further, HBOT stimulates the production of antioxidants and free radical scavengers, reducing lipid peroxidation and limiting cellular toxicity. It also promotes a definitive inhibitory effect on the growth of toxins in most aerobic microorganisms.