Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is the delivery of 100% oxygen to a patient who is pressurized in a hyperbaric chamber (the air we breathe normally contains 21% oxygen). At standard treatment pressures, HBO therapy raises the pO2 (oxygen pressure) in the patient’s plasma and body tissues 10-15 times higher than for a patient breathing room air at normal atmospheric pressure.

The physiological benefits of HBO therapy vary depending upon the condition being treated, these may include:

Depending on the condition being treated, HBO therapy can be the primary therapeutic intervention or adjunctive to other interventions such as antibiotics, surgery, or best practice wound care.

Indications and Basis for Referral

HBOT Clinics treats only those indications approved by Alberta Health, which are covered by the provincial health insurance plan.

Inidcations are generally classified into three triage categories: emergent, urgent, and routine. Wait times and treatment plans are adjusted accordingly.

Emergent

This triage category includes indications that may be life threatening if not treated immeidately. Referrals are treated the same day.

  • Decompression illness (serious)
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infection (critical)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation
  • Cerebral arterial gas embolism
  • Exceptional blood loss
  • Crush injury (limb threatening)
  • Clostridial myonecrosis

Urgent

This triage category includes serious indications. Referrals usually treated within 1-2 days.

  • Decompression illness (minor symptoms)
  • Crush injury or other acute traumatic ischemia (non-limb threatening)
  • Necrotizing soft tissue infections (non-critical)
  • Certain invasive fungal infections (e.g., Mucormycosis)
  • Hemorrhagic cystitis
  • Thermal burns

Routine

This triage category generally represents those indications that are more chronic in nature, or those treated pre/post surgery. Patients are usually assessed within a week of referral.

  • Selected non-healing wounds (e.g., diabetic lower extremity)
  • Osteoradionecrosis
  • Soft tissue radiation injury

We encourage referring physicians to discuss atypical problems or uncertain diagnoses with the hyperbaric physician responsible for triage by contacting us directly.

Referrals can be made using our standardized referral form (PDF viewer required) and faxed into HBOT Clinics at 403-509-4744.

Side Effects

Generally, patient experience few side effects from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. But, like any medical treatment, there are some risks. These risks are quite small and will be discussed with patients in more detail before consenting to therapy.

Most commonly patients report...

...a “"crackling" or pressure in their ears. This can be relieved the same way you clear your ears on an airplane or diving.

...being lightheaded after therapy. This sensation may be brief and will pass after a few minutes of rest.

Infrequently patients report...

...experiencing claustrophobia. Should you be feeling anxious about being in the chamber, please discuss this with the hyperbaric physician.

...a blurring of vision (refraction). This is temporary and studies have demonstrated that vision should return to normal in 6 to 8 weeks after the end of treatment.

...oxygen toxicity. The hyperbaric physician will minimize this risk by administering regular “air breaks” during your therapy.