Treatment under hyperbaric conditions is a clinically effective therapeutic offering. It has been used in a vast array of disorders, including athletic injuries, dermatological, neurological, cardiovascular, and autoimmune diseases producing impressive results in many difficult situations. First described in the early 1800s, often over its development as a therapeutic offering, it has been employed without complete understanding, yet consistently it has consistently provided remarkable results.
A common theme has emerged as the application and popularity of this treatment option has expanded. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective in addressing hypoxia and inflammation. Successful integration of into the multi-disciplinary approach to many conditions has shown this technique not only to be clinically effective but cost effective as well. The willingness of medical professionals to objectively evaluate this therapeutic offering in the coming years will no doubt continue to expand the complementary role within the medical mainstream.
There are two components of a hyperbaric treatment that combine to make it effective- pressure and oxygen. Independently, each of these components convey a physiological effect to the body. This is part of reason why it has been so difficult to structure research studies on this subject.
Within the last 15 years, two categories of hyperbaric chambers are often confused in social media. One type of chamber is referred to as portable, also known as soft sided or flexible walled chambers. The other type of chamber is known as traditional chambers, also commonly referred to as hard shelled chambers. Traditional chambers come in two varieties : Multi-place and Monoplace. These types of chambers are seen in clinical, hospital and military settings.
While both portable and traditional chambers are capable of increasing atmospheric pressure, soft sided chambers are restricted in their application as they are usually limited to between 1/5 to ¼ of an additional atmosphere of pressure (or 3psi). Also manufacturer’s labeling on the softsided chamber cautions against use of greater than 21% oxygen. Most clinical protocols call for the addition of at least ½ of an additional atmosphere (or 7.5 psi) and greater than 95% oxygen. Traditional hyperbaric chambers are capable of providing treatments over a full range of pressure from 7.5 psig to 29.4 psi to be clinically effective, depending upon the condition being treated. In traditional chambers 100% oxygen is used, affording deeper penetration into tissues. Most scientific studies are conducted in traditional chambers at pressures greater than what the soft sided chamber can achieve.