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It is the administration of pure oxygen to patients under increased atmospheric pressure, usually twice the normal atmospheric pressure at sea level. This therapy is administered in a hyperbaric chamber, in which the oxygen level and atmospheric pressure are carefully controlled.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is designed to boost the supply of oxygen to ischemic tissue or to diseased tissues that respond to increased oxygen levels. This is accomplished by increasing the volume of oxygen that is dissolved in the blood plasma.
Increasing the volume of oxygen dissolved in the blood plasma produces five basic therapeutic effects:
Each effect is beneficial to a different class of medical conditions. For example, restoring aerobic metabolism to oxygen-starved tissue is effective against osteoradionecrosis, chronic osteomyelitis, diabetic vascular disease, chronic venous stasis ulcers and other chronic non-healing ulcers.
Tissue detoxification alleviates the harmful effects of clostridial gas gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning and invasive fungal conditions. Enhanced phagocytosis counteracts anaerobic infections, such as ostemyelitis and in mixed infections such as necrotising fasciitis. Vasoconstriction, which reduces edema and secondary hypoxia, combats compartment and crush syndromes, burns, and compromised skin grafts and flaps. Alterations in bubble size speed the breakdown and the passage of bubbles into the pulmonary circulation in cases of decompression sickness and air embolism.