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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the medical use of oxygen at a higher than atmospheric pressure.

Several therapeutic principles are made use of in HBOT:

  • The increased overall pressure is of therapeutic value when HBOT is used in the treatment of decompression sickness.
  • For many other conditions, the therapeutic principle of HBOT lies in a drastically increased partial pressure of oxygen in the tissues of the body. The oxygen partial pressures achievable under HBOT are much higher than those under breathing pure oxygen at normobaric conditions (i.e. at normal atmospheric pressure).
  • A related effect is the increased oxygen transport capacity of the blood. Under atmospheric pressure, oxygen transport is limited by the oxygen binding capacity of hemoglobin in red blood cells and very little oxygen is transported by blood plasma. Because the hemoglobin of the red blood cells is almost saturated with oxygen under atmospheric pressure, this route of transport can not be exploited any further. Oxygen transport by plasma however is significantly increased under HBOT.

Hypoerbaric oxygen therapy can be used to treat:

  • Certain non-healing wounds (post-surgical or diabetic)
  • Radiation soft tissue necrosis and radiation osteonecrosis
  • Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria)
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Decompression sickness
  • Severe infection by anaerobic bacteria (such as gas gangrene)
  • Air or gas embolism
  • Severe uncorrected anemia
  • Chronic refractory Osteomyelitis
  • Enhancement of healing in problem wounds
  • Sports injuries
  • Used in the 24 Hour Le Mans race for drivers to attain further sleep in less time


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