Hyperbaric medicine

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Patients are being treated in the hyperbaric chamber in the Hyperbaric Medicine Division, School of Aerospace Medicine - DPLA

Hyperbaric Medicine is a specialized branch of medicine that involves the use of hyperbaric chambers to deliver oxygen at higher-than-normal atmospheric pressures to treat various medical conditions. This therapy, known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), takes advantage of the physiological effects of increased oxygen levels to promote healing and improve the outcomes of various medical conditions.


The use of hyperbaric chambers dates back to the mid-19th century when early models were developed for industrial purposes. However, it was during the 20th century that hyperbaric medicine began to be recognized as a valuable medical therapy. It gained popularity as a treatment for decompression sickness in divers (the "bends") and later found applications in various medical fields.

Mechanism of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the patient entering a specially designed chamber pressurized with pure oxygen. The increased atmospheric pressure allows the lungs to absorb a higher amount of oxygen, which is then delivered to the body's tissues through the bloodstream. This high-oxygen environment provides several therapeutic benefits:

  • 1. Enhanced Oxygen Delivery: Hyperbaric oxygen significantly increases the oxygen levels in the bloodstream, promoting oxygenation of tissues even in areas with compromised blood flow.
  • 2. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: HBOT can reduce inflammation and swelling in injured or infected tissues.
  • 3. Promotion of Healing: It stimulates the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and aids in tissue repair.
  • 4. Antimicrobial Action: Hyperbaric oxygen has antimicrobial properties and can help combat certain infections.

Indications for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has proven effective in treating various medical conditions, including:

  • - Decompression Sickness: It is used to treat divers who experience nitrogen bubble formation in their bloodstream upon rapid ascent.
  • - Gas Gangrene: HBOT is effective in treating this serious bacterial infection.
  • - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: It helps eliminate carbon monoxide from the body.
  • - Wound Healing: HBOT accelerates the healing of chronic wounds, diabetic ulcers, and tissue damage due to radiation therapy.
  • - Crush Injuries and Compartment Syndrome: It reduces swelling and promotes tissue recovery.
  • - Radiation Tissue Damage: Used to manage tissue damage caused by radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
  • - Chronic Bone Infections: HBOT is applied in osteomyelitis cases that are resistant to conventional treatments.

Hyperbaric Medicine Facilities

Hyperbaric medicine facilities house hyperbaric chambers, which come in various designs and sizes. These chambers can be monoplace (for one patient) or multiplace (for multiple patients). They are equipped with safety measures to monitor patients and control pressure and oxygen levels during treatment.

Safety and Side Effects

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is generally considered safe when administered by trained professionals. However, there are some potential side effects, including ear barotrauma, sinus barotrauma, and oxygen toxicity. These risks are carefully managed during treatment.

Research and Advancements

Ongoing research in hyperbaric medicine explores its potential applications in additional medical conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke recovery, and neurodegenerative diseases. Advancements in chamber design and treatment protocols continue to expand the therapeutic potential of HBOT.


Hyperbaric Medicine, through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, has proven to be a valuable and versatile medical treatment. Its ability to enhance oxygen delivery, promote healing, and manage a range of medical conditions underscores its importance in modern healthcare.


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