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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the administration of oxygen at a higher than normal atmospheric pressure, that is used to treat a limited but diverse range of illnesses. It is the primary treatment for disorders such as decompression illness, arterial gas embolism and carbon-monoxide poisoning.
It is also an effective adjunct in a combined program involving dressing changes, surgery and antibiotics for the enhancement of healing in non-healing 'problem' wounds.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the medical use of 100% oxygen at increased pressure. It works in a variety of ways in the body. This increased pressure provides more oxygen to the body than is possible under normal conditions. Most treatments are between two and three atmospheres of pressure, and the pressure change closely approximates scuba diving.
This increase of pressure drives more oxygen into body tissues and wounds that are lacking adequate levels of oxygen (called hypoxia) speeding wound healing and helping the return of normal tissue functions.
The length and frequency of treatments is worked out for each person and the condition. Hyperbaric oxygen may be an important part of total care, including wound care, surgery and medication as indicated. For most patients, treatments are daily - Monday through Friday - and treatments may last 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Some emergency conditions will require only one or two treatments. In most cases of wound healing support, the effects are gradual, and 20 to 50 treatments may be required.
Christchurch HMU has doctors who have had specialised hyperbaric medical training. The medical team includes anaesthetists and General Practitioners.
While in the chamber, treatments are managed by either a Registered Nurse or Diving Medical Technician with specialised training in hyperbaric medicine. An attendant is always in the chamber throughout treatment. The treatment is managed outside the chamber by a technician trained in pressure chamber operations. Medical care is rapidly available during treatments.
Everyone feels fullness in their ears as their eardrums adjust to the change in the chamber pressure. This is very similar to the feeling experienced when in an airplane or elevator. Instruction will be given on how to 'clear' ears, or equalize the pressure before treatment. If anyone experiences pain in their ears, the treatment is paused briefly until they are better.
Once the treatment begins air hisses into the chamber and it gets warmer. This will return to normal once the treatment pressure is reached.
During the treatment patients breathe from a special oxygen circuit through either a close fitting face mask or a clear plastic head-hood.
The attendant is there to deal with any problems straight away.
Depending upon the reason for coming to the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit, treatment can provide one or more of the following benefits:
There are risks to HBOT, but most of them can be dramatically reduced with the proper management. The risks can be divided into two types, physical and safety risks.
Safety RisksFire is a higher risk when the chamber is under pressure because of the increased level of oxygen in the hyperbaric chamber. All patients and staff remove all extra items that might be a hazard.Items that cannot be taken into the chamber:
Patients will be asked to remove anything with oil in it, such as:
Staff will arrange clothing to wear during the treatment. An undershirt of 100% cotton may be worn, to reduce the risk of electrostatic sparking. Clothing not allowed in the chamber includes:
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