Frequently Asked Questions About Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Q: Is HBOT new?

A: Not at all. It’s 300 years old. But there’s always something new in hyperbaric oxygen therapy today. For the most recent news, check out our blog, O2.0.

Q: Isn’t hyperbaric oxygen therapy only approved for SCUBA-related injuries?

A: No. The HBOT story only begins with undersea medicine. Besides decompression sickness, or “the bends,” the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) recognizes 12 diseases and conditions for which physicians may prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Please see our list of UHMS-approved HBOT diseases and conditions here.

Q: I don’t have one of these 13 recognized conditions. Can my doctor prescribe HBOT for me?

A: Yes. Physicians today are free to prescribe HBOT for a variety of “off-label” uses, too, as they see fit. HBOT has been shown to be effective for a number of conditions not recognized by UHMS. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also holds promise in many areas of medicine where researchers are just now beginning to gather and weigh the clinical evidence. Check out our running list of off-label and investigational HBOT diseases and conditions here.

Q: I read about a celebrity who sleeps in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to slow the aging process and cure his insomnia. Does it work?

A: Many of the boldest claims for HBOT find little or no support in the medical literature. All the more reason to read up on the science, ask the medical experts, share findings and experiences with others, and get involved in new clinical trials.

Q: Why isn’t there more clinical evidence on HBOT?

A: Some say it’s because investigators find it difficult to design good experiments with double-blinded study and control groups. Others say it’s because there’s no deep-pocket pharmaceutical company or government agency to fund expensive human clinical trials on HBOT. We say it’s also because the healthcare consumer and patient advocate groups have not been given a loud enough voice.

Q: Is hyperbaric oxygen therapy covered by insurance?

A: It all depends on your condition, insurance policy, and documented medical need. The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reimburses HBOT providers for 11 different conditions. Please see our list of conditions approved by the UHMS, which are generally reimbursable. Ask your insurance company about treatment for off-label conditions.

Q: I’m claustrophobic, but my doctor told me hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help me with my chronic nonhealing wound. Does anyone make a chamber that might make me feel less anxious?

A: Yes. Some manufacturers offer chambers with clear acrylic walls. Our directory will include information about all makes and models and what types of chambers each treatment facility offers.

Q: When I’m in the hyperbaric chamber do I have to wear a hood?

A: That depends on the type of chamber. A monoplace chamber accommodates a single patient. The entire chamber is filled with oxygen and pressurized, so no hood is required. A multiplace chamber accommodates more than one person. Pressurized oxygen is delivered through a hood to each patient. Medical personnel can accompany patients in a multiplace chamber during treatment.

Q: How much pressure will I be under in the hyperbaric chamber?

A: Standard treatments range from 1.4 to 2.5 atmospheres. That’s about 2.5 to 3.5 times normal atmospheric pressure (14 pounds per square inch at sea level).

Q: How does it feel inside the chamber when they raise the pressure?

A: The pressure in the chamber is increased gradually. The change feels similar to ascent and descent on an airplane ride. You might feel your ears pop. Patients report all kinds of other effects and feelings during treatment. But don’t take our word for it. We’re eager to hear your chamber experiences on HyperbaricLink.com.

Q: I have diabetes and am going to be receiving HBOT for poor circulation in my legs. I’m worried about being able to get in and out of the chamber. Is that going to be a problem?

A: Probably not. But you can check ahead on HyperbaricLink.com. Some treatment facilities have chambers with portals like normal doors. Others move patients in and out on a gurney. Our directory of facilities will include information about accessibility and support.

Q: I’m about to begin a series of treatments in a monoplace chamber. What should I wear? Will I need extra clothes to stay warm? Can I wear my own clothes?

A: The right clothing is important for your comfort and safety. It can get a bit chilly in the chamber. But fabrics that generate static electricity can pose serious danger in a highly oxygenated environment. You will also be asked to remove your wristwatch and jewelry. Consult your hyperbaric physician and technician about proper HBOT attire and chamber rules.

Q: How can I find out if an HBOT facility is reputable?

A: HyperbaricLink.com is a good place to start. Provider profiles will list facility accreditations, institutional affiliations, and physician and equipment certifications. UHMS accreditation is perhaps the best indicator of a reputable HBOT provider. The Society educates its member clinicians and inspects and accredits select provider facilities. Still, many reputable providers do not seek or receive accreditation. Register and search our forums for comments and complaints about a facility. With a HyperbaricLink.com premium patient membership you will even be able to post questions and request personal testimonials and references.

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Updated: 17 Jan 2011 12:00 AM
Created: 13 Jun 2009 12:00 AM
By: About the authors »