Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
all information

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

(Hyperbaric Oxygenation; Hyperbarics; Hyperbaric Medicine; HBOT; HBO2)

Pronounced: hi-purr-BEAR-ick

En Español (Spanish Version)


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing 100% oxygen in a sealed chamber. This concentration is five times higher than normal air we breathe. The chamber is also pressurized to create 1.5 to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. These changes can improve blood circulation and the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen to the body.

Parts of the Body Involved

The entire body is enclosed in the sealed chamber.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure has been used to treat many health problems, including the following:

  • An air bubble (embolism) which gets into the circulatory system and blocks blood flow
  • Decompression sickness , which can occur when divers or miners come to the surface too quickly
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Wound healing, especially in patients with poor circulation
  • Radiation therapy injuries following treatment for cancer
  • Skin grafts, flaps, or burns

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

HBOT is relatively safe, although you may experience claustrophobia from being inside the chamber. Ear popping or mild discomfort may also occur. Most complications can be reduced by keeping pressure within the chamber below three times normal atmospheric pressure. It also helps to keep sessions to no longer than two hours.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Wear comfortable clothes. You will lie down on a padded table, which slides into a tube. This is called a single-person chamber (monoplace). In some cases, doctors use chambers that hold more than a dozen people at one time.



Description of the Procedure

A technician gradually pressurizes the chamber with 100% oxygen. Throughout the procedure, you will be able to talk to this person.

  • You should relax and keep breathing normally.
  • If your ears pop or you have discomfort, the technician may lower the pressure. It may also help to swallow or blow with your nose pinched while the chamber is being pressurized.
  • After the right pressure is achieved, you will place a clear plastic hood or mask over your head. It will deliver oxygen to you.
  • If you are at high risk for oxygen toxicity, you may be allowed to breathe room air for brief periods.
  • You may sleep, read, or do handwork during the rest of your time in the chamber.

After Procedure

Over a period of several minutes, a technician will slowly depressurize the chamber. You will likely feel some ear popping. Afterward, it is common to feel light-headed and tired. However, you should be able to go back to your daily activities. You may have more than one session over a period of several days.

How Long Will It Take?

The process can take 30 minutes to two hours

Will It Hurt?

No, although you may feel a sense of fullness in the ears as the eardrums respond to changes in pressure.

Possible Complications

  • Nearsightedness (myopia), which can last for weeks or months
  • Sinus damage, ruptured middle ear, or lung damage
  • Oxygen toxicity, which can cause seizures, fluid in the lungs, or respiratory failure
  • Worsening symptoms or increased risk for lung problems in people with congestive heart failure or lung disease
  • Fire or explosions from increased levels of oxygen

Average Hospital Stay

None, unless required for a medical condition.

Postoperative Care



This treatment may lessen decompression sickness or speed healing by enhancing oxygenation of tissues. It may also reduce the size of air bubbles (emboli) in your blood. This allows your body to move the air bubbles to the lungs, where they can be expelled.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or discomfort in sinuses or middle ear
  • Trouble seeing far away
  • Worsening symptoms of lung disease



The Henry Spink Foundation

The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS)


Health Canada

Reimer Hyperbaric of Canada


Greensmith. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. University of Iowa Virtual Hospital website. Available at: http://www.vh.org/adult/patient/anesthesia/hyperbaricoxygen/index.html . Accessed September 1, 2005.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO_5_3x_Hyperbaric_oxygen_therapy.asp?sitearea=ETO . Accessed September 1, 2005.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. MedlinePlus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002375.htm . Accessed September 1, 2005.

Last reviewed March 2008 by Jill Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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