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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the process of breathing while being in a chamber that’s pressurized to more than the atmospheric pressure at sea level — or more than 1 atmosphere absolute (ATA). At Legacy Medical Centers, our chambers reach 4 PSI or 1.3 ATA. Oxygen is transported in the blood in two ways: (1) bound to hemoglobin, and (2) dissolved in plasma. The amount of dissolved oxygen is increased by the pressure of the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, as explained by Henry’s Law (the solubility of a gas in a liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the liquid), and ultimately results in maximized tissue oxygenation. In HBOT, oxygen moves as inhaled gas to blood in the arteries to capillary beds and across the interstitial and intercellular fluid. The final destination of oxygen — the sites of utilization within the cell — are the mitochondria, peroxisome, and endoplasmic reticulum.

Oxidative stress is a key mechanism of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Breathing greater than 1 ATA O2 will increase production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) help with a variety of growth factors, cytokines, and hormones. ROS play important roles in protective, antioxidant pathways, such as maintenance of glutathione levels. HBOT promotes the synthesis of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which stimulates formation of new blood vessels in wounds (neovascularization) to help with repair. HBOT also stimulates fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and enhances the synthesis and cross-linking of collagen synthesis. Rahav Boussi-Gross of The Institute of Hyperbaric Medicine notes that oxygen may be a “common denominator” to repair and regeneration mechanisms within the body.

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At Legacy Medical Centers, we use hyperbaric oxygen therapy most often for:*

  • Concussion or Head Injury: A healthy brain uses almost all of the oxygen delivered to it. However, when the brain is injured, it requires much more oxygen or energy in order to repair. The elevated oxygen levels during HBOT can supply this extra energy. In patients suffering from concussion, HBOT helps with adaptation and regeneration of the brain (neuroplasticity). HBOT helps regenerate axonal white matter (the long parts of neurons deep inside the brain), and helps with growth of myelin. HBOT can improve cellular metabolism, reduce apoptosis (self-destruction of cells), and increase levels of neurotrophins by enhancing the function of the mitochondria in neurons and glial cells. Limited research has shown that HBOT improves concussion symptoms including improved reaction time, memory, and information processing speed, as measured by neurocognitive testing.
  • Sports Injuries: Hyperoxygenation increases deposition of collagen, which is the main component of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone. HBOT may provide the greatest benefit to injured areas of connective tissue that have low blood supply, such as the musculotendinous junctions and ligaments. These areas are also commonly injured among athletes. The matrix of collagen has another benefit — it is essential for the building of new blood vessels or neovascularization, which is important in the stimulation of reparative and regenerative processes. Although evidence may be limited, HBOT is increasingly being used by athletes to speed healing and recovery from injuries and reduce fatigue. Portable HBOT units have even been used by athletes during the Olympic Games.
  • Cluster Headache: While oxygen has been shown to be effective as a treatment for acute cluster headache, there is currently only limited evidence for HBOT as a treatment. However, oxygen treatment is effective and safe. The proposed mechanism of HBOT in helping cluster headaches is that it inhibits the cranial parasympathetic nerve fibers and deactivates the trigeminal nerve autonomic reflex arc. Oxygen is thought to inhibit the neurogenic inflammation related to this pathway, which relieves the patient’s headache.

*Please note that health insurance only covers HBOT in specific circumstances. For patients of Legacy Medical Centers, use of the hyperbaric oxygen chamber will include a nominal cash fee (this includes the cost of personal oxygen mask) per session in the event that your condition is not covered.

Walk-in use of the HBOT is also available at the prices below:

  • 1 (1-Hour) Session – $50.00
  • 10 Sessions – $ 450.00 ($45/session)
  • 20 Sessions – $ 800.00 ($40/session)
  • 40 Sessions – $1400.00 ($35/session)

Our Sessions are 1 hour in length and begin when the chamber is fully pressurized. Therefore, please allow approximately 1 1/2 hours for your appointment time.

At Legacy Medical Centers, patients may be evaluated by a physician in order to determine if HBOT may be helpful and is safe in each case. Call (724) 941-0707 to inquire for further details.

Additional Resources:

Boussi-Gross, Rahav, et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can improve post concussion syndrome years after mild traumatic brain injury-randomized prospective trial.” PloS one 8.11 (2013): e79995. Barata, Pedro, et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen effects on sports injuries.” Therapeutic advances in musculoskeletal disease (2011): 1759720X11399172. Prakash, Advait, et al. “Role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in severe head injury in children.” Journal of pediatric neurosciences 7.1 (2012): 4. Huang, Lei, and Andre Obenaus. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for traumatic brain injury.” Med Gas Res 1.1 (2011): 21. Stoller, Kenneth P. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (1.5 ATA) in treating sports related TBI/CTE: two case reports.” Medical gas research 1.1 (2011): 1-6. Mu, Jun, Paul R. Krafft, and John H. Zhang. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes neurogenesis: where do we stand?.” Med Gas Res 1 (2011): 14. Bhutani, Sourabh, and Guruswamy Vishwanath. “Hyperbaric oxygen and wound healing.” Indian journal of plastic surgery: official publication of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India 45.2 (2012): 316. Thom, Stephen R. “Hyperbaric oxygen – its mechanisms and efficacy.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 127.Suppl 1 (2011): 131S. Petersen, Anja S., Mads CJ Barloese, and Rigmor H. Jensen. “Oxygen treatment of cluster headache: A review.” Cephalalgia (2014): 0333102414529672. Kuran, Fehmi Doruk, et al. “Effect of hyperbaric oxygen treatment on tendon healing after Achilles tendon repair: an experimental study on rats.” Acta orthopaedica et traumatologica turcica 46.4 (2012): 293-300. Borcek, Alp Ozgun, et al. “Hyperbaric Oxygen in Epidural Fibrosis: Is There a Potential for Treatment?.” Turkish neurosurgery 23.5 (2013): 607. Han, Guang, Lu Li, and Ling-xin Meng. “Effects of hyperbaric oxygen on pain-related behaviours and nitric oxide synthase expression in a rat model of neuropathic pain.”Pain Research & Management: The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society 18.3 (2013): 137.

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