What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

HBOT is a well-established medical treatment providing 100% oxygen at the pressure above one atmosphere. During treatment, a patient is placed into a closed hyperbaric chamber. The atmospheric pressure inside the chamber gradually increases to the prescribed level ( 2-3 atm) and a patient breaths 100% oxygen under the elevated atmospheric pressure for a set amount of time.
Some hyperbaric chambers, as in our center, accommodate only one patient for treatment. Others can hold two or more people.
A typical treatment lasts approximately two hours. The number of treatments varies from 1-5 ( in acute conditions) to 60 ( for chronic diseases). The treatments are usually done for 5 consecutive days with 2 days for break.

What conditions are cured/improved with HBOT?

Health Canada recognizes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for following acute and chronic conditions:

  1. Embolisms (air or gas bubbles in the bloodstream, which may travel to the brain or lungs)
  2. Carbon monoxide poisoning (from inhaling smoke or car exhaust)
  3. Gas gangrene
  4. Crush injury, Compartment Syndrome and other acute traumatic problems where blood flow is reduced or cut off (e.g., frostbite)
  5. Decompression sickness (the bends);
  6. Enhancement of healing for wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers
  7. Exceptional blood loss (anemia);
  8. Intracranial abscess (an accumulation of pus in the brain)
  9. Necrotizing soft tissue infections (flesh-eating disease);
  10. Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
  11. Delayed radiation injury (e.g., radiation burns that develop after cancer therapy, radiation cystitis, proctitis)
  12. Skin grafts and flaps that are not healing well
  13. Thermal burns (e.g., from fire or electrical sources)
  14. Sudden Idiophatic Sensory-neural Hearing Loss
  15. Acute central retinal artery occlusion

For some of the conditions such as embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness, hyperbaric oxygen therapy the principal and definitive treatment. For others such as bone infection, chronic wounds, compromised skin and graft support, and intracranial abscess, HBOT is an effective and very important adjunct in a combined with programs involving antibiotics, dressing changes and surgery for the enhancement of healing. All indications recognized by Health Canada are covered by OHIP.

Research studies have found improvements after hyperbaric oxygen therapy in some neurological conditions such as stroke, concussion, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain (fibromyalgia, pain related to nerve injury, migraines and cluster headaches, interstitial cystitis, trigeminal neuralgia) and selected sport injuries.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment for these conditions are not covered by OHIP

How does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy work?

When patients are given high levels of oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure in the hyperbaric chamber, the amount of oxygen that is delivered to injured tissues increases by 15 times. This allows new blood vessels and nerves to grow, stabilizes tissue metabolism, enhances the function of white blood cells (i.e. the cells that improve the immune system and help to fight infections) and augments the effect of antibiotics. Hyperbaric oxygen also decrease swelling and improves blood circulation. These processes enhance wound healing, preserve damaged tissue, and improve infection control.


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a very safe and reliable therapy with very few side effects when performed and monitored by skilled physicians and medically trained personnel. The risks associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy could be divided into side effects of the therapy itself and fire-related issues.
Side effects and complications of the therapy:

  • Some people can experience anxiety inside the chamber (claustrophobia). Significant anxiety could be treated with light sedative medications.
  • Pressure inside the chamber can cause pain and discomfort in the middle and inner ear, nasal sinuses, and teeth. It also could lead to lung damage. These complications can often be avoided by careful patient screening and by using the techniques to equalize the inner ear pressure along with careful assessment before and after each treatment.
  • HBOT therapy may cause temporary nearsightedness which goes away when the treatment is over. Visual changes usually return to baseline pretreatment vision levels within 6 weeks to 6 months following treatment.
  • HBOT can decrease blood sugar levels in diabetics on diabetic medications. Diabetic patients should have their glucose levels checked before and after treatment to prevent very low levels of blood sugar.
  • Very rare high oxygen concentration can lead to oxygen overload and cause seizures and lung problems. This is usually prevented by carefully designed treatment protocol and regular patient assessments during the treatment period.

Safety Risks

Fire is the biggest safety risk. During the hyperbaric oxygen treatments, the chamber contains 100% oxygen under elevated atmospheric pressures which creates a potentially flammable environment.
To prevent the hazards related to an oxygen rich environment, patients and personal have to follow simple but strict rules:

  1. Every patient will be provided with a special gown to wear during the treatment. It is made of 100% cotton to reduce the risk of fire. NO other clothes will be allowed during the treatment.
  2. Below is a list of items that can not be brought into the hyperbaric chambers:
    1. Jewelry/watches, lighters, matches, metal objects, contact lenses, anything paper, any electronic devices, hearing aids and contact lenses
  3. Cosmetic or hygiene items such as lipstick, hair oil, hair spray, ointments, liniments , makeup, cream, nail polish, cologne or perfume MUST be removed before the treatment.

What Else?

Each patient must sign an informed document consent prior to commencing their hyperbaric oxygen treatment regimen.

We strongly recommend that patients quit smoking during the treatment period as it affects the effectiveness of the therapy.

Please arrive 45 minutes before your scheduled treatment time.

This allows time:

  • For you to change your clothes.
  • For one of our staff members to check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar and breathing, if required.
  • To administer medications if needed.
  • To finish getting you ready for your treatment.

Please let us know if you need to cancel the appointment or treatment.