How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Works Wonders for Wound Healing

While wound healing with hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been around for a while, in recent years, its use and adoption in mainstream medicine has been steadily on the rise—and for a reason.
Let’s admit it. Whether it was some fresh wound that we got while cutting onions in the kitchen or a deep, decaying wound resulting from some bacterial infection, many of us have had some type of physical wound in our lives.
In athletic sports, wounds are almost a given.
Consider that almost one in three of all childhood injuries is associated with athletic sports. According to the National Safety Council statistics, 5- to 14-year-olds experience injuries at higher rates than any other age group. And males get injured at rates that are twice that of females.
Don’t get this wrong; wounds can be frustrating—and can significantly decrease quality of life. The following are some of the most common effects of wounds on quality of life.

  • Lack of mobility
  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of adequate sleep
  • Unpleasant odor statistics
  • Lack of the ability to work

However, thanks to medical interventions, most wounds are treated relatively quickly. Almost 90% of injury victims are treated and immediately discharged. And healing with hyperbaric is increasingly becoming an essential part of this success.

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Recovery?

Also called hyperbaric chamber injury recovery, hyperbaric oxygen recovery (HBOT) is a body treatment option where the patient breathes a very high concentration of oxygen in a chamber with high pressure.

Oxygen has long been established as a catalyst in the healing and recovery of the body, including essential physiological and regenerative processes.
Some of the regenerative processes associated with wound healing—for which oxygen plays an important role—include:

  • Angiogenesis is the growth and development of new blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow to the tissue.
  • Cell proliferation: Occurs when cells multiply and increase in number because of cell growth and division. Body cells can then fight infections easily.
  • Protein synthesis: The process by which cells make proteins. Proteins are essential for tissue repair when the wound is healing.

Therefore, to facilitate wound-healing processes—including the above-mentioned —, doctors use hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The goal is to infuse more oxygen molecules into the tissues of the body. The process is called tissue oxygenation.

What Happens When You’re Injured?

When you get injured, an immediate inflammatory process begins as the body responds to the situation. Consequently, you’re likely to experience any or all of the following:

  • Swelling around the affected area
  • Warmth in the surrounding area
  • Pain
  • Redness of the surrounding skin

During inflammation due to some injury, the following occurs in your body—behind the scenes.

Injury and Inflammation

When you get injured, your body will try to increase blood flow to the affected part as the blood has several healing properties, including;

  • Oxygen
  • White blood cells
  • Nutrients

Your blood vessels dilate and expand to take more blood into the area.
Also, the blood vessels in the surrounding tissues become more porous and leaky. This condition happens because the body wants the essential components of blood like white blood cells and oxygen to reach the affected cells.
As a result of the increased porousness of blood vessels in the surrounding tissues, water and other body fluids percolate to the affected area, causing swelling.
The rush of blood to the area and other enhanced physiological activities around the surrounding tissue will bring about warmth and redness around the area.
Also, your body may fear that you’ll lose blood and set off blood clotting processes around the area.
But with time, problems related to inadequate oxygen supply to the affected area can arise.

Wounds and Inadequate Oxygen Supply

After the initial inflammatory response involving the increased supply of blood to the affected area, the oxygen level rises at first—due to the increase in blood supply—then subsequently falls.
The reason oxygen levels fall are:

  • The inflammatory response involving the movement of several immune system cells to the injured area precipitates faster consumption of oxygen, hence quicker depletion.
  • Tissue damage resulting from the injury may also result in damage to blood vessels around the area. Consequently, oxygen levels may not be enough.

While the body can tolerate or even thrive in this low oxygen level environment for a while, wound healing processes may slow down and taper off when this low oxygen condition prolongs.
For instance, collagen, the main structural protein that makes up the skin, cannot be made without sufficient oxygen levels.
Wounds that would take one week to heal may now take a month or more. Worse, they may become chronic—or cause sepsis as a result of blood infection.
According to a study cited in the Lancet, sepsis is the number one cause of hospital deaths in the United States.
That’s where Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy comes in.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Increases Oxygen Levels To The Wounded Tissues

Hyperbaric chamber

If you’ve got a wound and you choose to use Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, you’ll be required to get inside a hyperbaric chamber.
A hyperbaric chamber is not like your regular surgical table. It’s not intimidating. Instead, it’s comfortable and relaxing.
Inside this chamber, there’s oxygen at 100% concentration (compared to 21% present in the room air we breathe), and air pressure between increases 1.5 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure (1 atm).
The level of oxygen that dissolves into the tissues depends on two things:

  • Oxygen concentration
  • Air pressure

If these two properties are at their optimal, more oxygen gets into your tissues, thereby speeding up the healing process.
Also, with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, the procedure is not localized to a specific area. You don’t put only the injured part inside the hyperbaric chamber. Instead, your whole body gets inside. As a result of this, it receives the benefit of increased oxygen.
The increased oxygen level will also have one other significant effect. It stimulates the activities of mitochondria—the cell organelles responsible for energy production.
The reason this is critical is that healing is an energy-demanding process.
Hyperbaric therapy, and the subsequent higher levels of oxygen also:

  • Stimulates the production of more stem cells required for healing
  • Stimulates the body’s antimicrobial activity hence frustrating the growth of harmful bacteria
  • Facilitates the growth of new blood vessels
  • Promotes the growth of collagen—the protein that makes up the structure of the skin.

Other Conditions and Injuries Where Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Be Used

The following are some of the other conditions where hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be helpful:

  • Severe anemia: When the number of red blood cells in the body drop, the oxygen level in the body will likewise fall, hence the need for oxygen therapy
  • Decompression sickness, common with scuba or deep-sea divers
  • Radiation injury: Radiation therapy may lead to extensive tissue damage, for which hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be useful
  • Gas gangrene and clostridial myositis
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chronic wounds
  • Fatal soft tissue infections
  • Refractory osteomyelitis: Infection of the bone marrow
  • Thermal burns
  • Sudden deafness
  • Sudden vision loss

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for athletes helps them reduce the recovery time or just to improve their general wellbeing. Other amazing benefits of HBOT for athletes include more energy and mental clarity.
NBA star LeBron James is among athletes who practice healing with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, especially to hasten recovery. A tweet of him in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber was widely shared on the internet.

Additional Read: The Benefits of HBOT for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: What You Should Expect

What can you expect and be prepared for when considering hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

  • Expect to be in a resting position similar to when you’re relaxing on your bed.
  • You can expect to see all around you.
  • You may feel a little pressure in your ears, like when you’re on a plane. In most cases, this is nothing to worry about. Still, if you feel ear pain, don’t hesitate to tell the technician who’s doing the therapy.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not a one-off treatment session. It can extend to two months, 4-5 days a week.
  • A single hyperbaric therapy session may last about two hours.
  • After the procedure, the doctor will take your blood pressure and pulse and your blood sugar level if you’re diabetic.
  • You can leave immediately after the session.

Do You Want To Use Hyperbaric Therapy for Healing or General Wellbeing?

Wounds and injuries can make us lose days and months of income-generating labor. Plus, not to mention:

  • The pain— that makes us grimace and weep.
  • Isolation and confinement that keeps us away from friends and social events; and
  • Frustration and anxiety when your wound doesn’t heal as quickly as you’d want

But time—contrary to what we’ve been told—may not heal all wounds.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help you heal faster so you can quickly resume chasing your dreams and living your life to the fullest.
At NexGen Hyperbaric, we make the hyperbaric oxygen therapy technology accessible to people who need it to help patients in need.
Accredited by the Undersea Hyperbaric and Medical Society, we have state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, experienced staff, rigorous training, and unmatched patient care and operational safety standards.
Got a wound that’s taking too long to heal? Contact us and learn how NextGen Hyperbaric can help you heal.