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Hyperbaric medicine, also known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the medical use of oxygen at a higher than atmospheric pressure.
Uses Several therapeutic principles are made use of in HBOT:
TraditionalThe traditional type of hyperbaric chamber used for HBOT is a hard shelled pressure vessel. Such chambers can be run at absolute pressures up to 600 kilopascals or 85 PSI (lbf/in²), nearly six atmospheres.Navies, diving organizations and hospitals typically operate these. They range in size from those which are portable and capable of transporting just one patient to those which are fixed, very heavy and capable of treating eight or more patients.The chamber may consist of:
Oxygen BreathingIn todays larger "multiplace" chambers, both patients and medical staff inside the chamber breathe from "oxygen helmets", flexible, transparent soft plastic helmets with a seal around the neck similar to a space suit helmet. They may also breathe from tightly fitting aviators type oxygen masks, which supply pure oxygen and remove the exhaled gas from the chamber. During treatment patients breathe 100% oxygen most of the time but have periodic air breaks to minimize the risk of oxygen toxicity. The exhaled gas must be removed from the chamber to prevent the build up of oxygen, which could provoke a fire. Medical staff may also breathe oxygen to reduce the risk of decompression sickness. Administration of 100% breathing oxygen maximizes the patients treatment. The pressure inside the chamber is increased by opening valves allowing high-pressure air to enter from storage cylinders, similar to diving cylinders. A gas compressor is used to fill these cylinders. Smaller "monoplace" chambers can only accommodate the patient. No medical staff can enter. The chamber is flooded with pure oxygen or compressed air. The cost of using pure oxygen in a monoplace chamber is much higher then using compressed air. If pure oxygen is used no oxygen breathing mask or helmet is needed. If compressed air is used then a oxygen mask or helmet is needed as in a multiplace chamber. In monoplace chambers that are compressed with pure oxygen a mask is available to provide the patient with "air breaks," periods of breathing normal air, in order to reduce the risk of hyperoxic seizures.
Effects of PressurePatients inside the chamber will notice discomfort inside their ears as a pressure difference develops between their middle ear and the chamber atmosphere. This can be relieved by the Valsalva maneuver or by "jaw wiggling". As the pressure increases further, mist may form in the air inside the chamber and the air may become warm. When the patient speaks, the pitch of the voice may increase to the level that they sound like cartoon characters.To reduce the pressure, a valve is opened to allow gas out of the chamber. As the pressure falls, the patient’s ears may "squeak" as the pressure inside the ear equalizes with the chamber. The temperature in the chamber will fall.
Home treatmentThere are portable HBOT chambers, which are used for home treatment. These are usually referred to as "mild chambers", which is a reference to the lower pressure of soft-sided chambers. Those commercially available in the USA go up to 4.1 PSI (about 28.268 kPa) overpressure which is equivalent to a water depth of 11 ft. These chambers are operated with oxygen concentrators or with 100% oxygen as the breathing gas. The soft chambers are FDA approved only for the treatment of Altitude Sickness. In addition, the FDA has a specific warning that supplemental oxygen is not to be used. Terrell Owens has one in his house to aide his recovery from injuries.
Historical link to divingInitially, HBOT was developed as a treatment for diving disorders involving bubbles of gas in the tissues, such as decompression sickness and gas embolism. The chamber cures decompression sickness and gas embolism by increasing pressure, reducing the size of the gas bubbles and improving the transport of blood to downstream tissues. The high concentrations of oxygen in the tissues are beneficial in keeping oxygen-starved tissues alive, and have the effect of removing the nitrogen from the bubble, making it smaller until it consists only of oxygen which is then re-absorbed into the body. After elimination of bubbles, the pressure is gradually reduced back to atmospheric levels.
ProtocolThe slang term for a cycle of pressurization inside the HBOT chamber is "a dive". An HBOT treatment for longer-term conditions is often a series of 20 to 40 dives.Emergency HBOT for diving disorders typically follows one of two forms. For most cases, a shallow "dive" to a pressure the equivalent of 18 meters / 60 feet of water for 3 to 4.5 hours with the casualty breathing pure oxygen with air breaks every 20 minutes to reduce oxygen toxicity. For extremely serious cases, a deeper "dive" to a pressure the equivalent of 37 meters / 122 feet of water for 4.5 hours with the casualty breathing air. In Canada and the United States, the U.S. Navy Dive Charts are used to determine the duration, pressure and breathing gas of the therapy. The most frequently used tables are Table 5 and Table 6. In the UK the Royal Navy 62 and 67 tables are used.The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical SocietyUndersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) publishes a report which compiles the latest research findings and contains information regarding the recommended duration and pressure of the longer-term conditions.
Possible complicationsThere are risks associated with HBOT, similar to some diving disorders. Pressure changes can cause a "squeeze" or barotrauma in the tissues surrounding trapped air inside the body, such as the lungs, behind the eardrum, inside paranasal sinuses, or trapped underneath dental fillings. Breathing high-pressure oxygen for long periods can cause oxygen toxicity. Temporarily blurred vision can be caused by swelling of the lens, which usually resolves in two to four weeks.The only absolute contraindication to hyperbaric oxygen therapy is untreated pneumothorax. Relative complications include grand mal seizure, fever, the inability to clear the ears or sinuses, and the use of certain chemotherapy agents.There are reports that cataract may progress following HBOT. Also a rare side effect has been blindness secondary to optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve).
ContraindicationsA study on HBOT used for wound healing found that cigarette smoking was associated with poor response (p<0.0001), while diabetes was not. The same study found that high levels of blood creatinine, urea nitrogen, and young age improved response to HBOT.
Neuro-rehabilitationThe Collet (Quebec) trialCollet, J.P., Vanasse, M., Marois, P., Amar, M., Goldberg, J., Lambert, J. et al. (2001) Hyperbaric oxygen for children with cerebral palsy: A randomized multicentre trial. The Lancet, 357, 582-586. that was published in the Lancet in 2001 was the largest randomized trial of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for children with cerebral palsy (CP); it followed the McGill pilot study on the same subjectMontgomery, D., Goldberg, J., Amar, M., Lacroix, V., Lecomte, J., Lambert, J., Vanasse, M., & Marois, P. (1999). Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on children with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy: A pilot project. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, 26(4), 235-242..The evidence showed that both groups of children treated with two very different hyperbaric treatment dosages improved significantly. The motor improvements that were seen and measured with the gross motor function measureRussell, D.J., Rosenbaum, P.L., Cadman, D.T., Gowland, C., Hardy, S., & Jarvis, S. (1989). The gross motor function measure: A means to evaluate the effects of physical therapy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 31(3), 341-352. were greater, more generalized, and were obtained in a shorter period of time than most of the changes found in any other studies of recognized conventional therapies in the treatment of children with cerebral palsyAlmeida, G.L., Campbell, S.K., Girolami, G.L., Penn, R.D., & Corcos, D.M. (1997). Multidimensional assessment of motor function in a child with cerebral palsy following intrathecal administration of baclofen. Physical Therapy, 77 (7), 751-764. Damiano, D.L. & Abel, M.F. (1998). Functional outcomes of strength training in spastic cerebral palsy. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 79 (2), 119-125.. The children in both groups improved an average of ten times more during the two months of HBOT (whilst all other therapies and medication were stopped) than during the three months follow-up (when medication and all the ancillary treatments were restarted). This impressive change in the rate of improvements clearly indicates the probable effectiveness of hyperbaric treatment. Both the Lancet commentaryTalking Points, Hyperbaric oxygen: Hype or hope? Lancet 2001;357 and the tech report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)Agency for Healthcare US Department. (2003). Web page concluded that the hypothesis of both treatments being equally effective should be retained, possibly as the main hypothesis.Since the Quebec study of HBOT for children with CP, many reportsChang CF, Niu KC, Hoffer BJ, Wang Y, Borlongan CV. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for treatment of post ischemic stroke in adult rats. Exp Neurol 2002; 166: 298-306. Heuser G, Heuser SA, Rodelander D, Aguilera O, Uszler M. Treatment of neurologically impaired adults and children with "mild" hyperbaric oxygenation (1.3 ATA and 24% Oxygen). In Joiner JT, ed. Hyperbaric Oxygenation for Cerebral Palsy and the Brain-Injured Child. Best Publications, Flagstaff Arizona 2002;109-15 have been made on the possible efficacy of a low pressure hyperbaric treatment and all the trials Barret, K. (1999). Pediatric cerebral palsy treated by 1.5 ATA hyperbaric oxygen – A pilot study. Proceedings of The Second International Symposium on HBO for CP . Marois, P., & Vanasse, M. (Juillet 2006). HBOT in the treatment of cerebral palsy: A retrospective study of 120 cases-5 years. Paper presented at 5th Annual Symposium: HBO and the recoverable brain, Fort Lauderdale, USA. Nighoghossian N., Trouillas P., Adeleine P., Salord F. Hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke. Stroke 1995; 26: 1369-1372. SHI Xiao-yan, TANG Zhong-quan, SUN Da and HE Xiao-jun. Evaluation of hyperbaric oxygen treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders following traumatic brain injury. Chin Med J 2006;119(23):1978-1982. conducted with HBOT in CP have demonstrated positive results.Middle ear barotrauma (MEBT) is always a consideration in treating both children and adults in a hyperbaric environment, but most children currently being treated with HBOT are being pressurized to 1.3 ATA which greatly reduces the risks of potential side effects of any kind.Muller-BollaMuller-Bolla M., Collet J.P., Ducruet T., Robinson A. Side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in children with cerebral palsy. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine 2006, Vol. 33, No 4 states that: "This study shows that exposure to low hyperbaric pressure is associated with minor signs of barotrauma compared to very low exposure. All other side effects were rare and similar in both groups."It has been postulated that HBOT might relieve some of the core symptoms of autism. However, scientific evidence is lacking for the use of HBOT to treat autism.Fischer et al.Fischer BH, Marks M, Reich T. Hyperbaric-oxygen treatment of multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. N Engl J Med 1983; 308:181-6. in New York University performed the first randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial on MS patients treated with HBOT. Improvements in balance and bladder function were found in 12 of 17 patients (p<0.0001). Those patients with a less severe form of the disease had a more favorable and long lasting response. After a year with no further treatment, the treated group showed a positive change (p<0.0008). Barnes et al.Barnes MP, Bates D, Cartlidge NEF, et al. Hyper-baric oxygen and multiple sclerosis: short term results of a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. Lancet 1985; ii:297-3006. found overall benefit in their treated group (p<0.03) and a year later there was less deterioration in cerebellar function (p<0.03). Two other controlled studiesOriani G, Barbieri S, Cislaghi G, Albonico G et al. Hyperbaric oxygen in multiple sclerosis: a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized study with evoked potential studies. J Hyp Med 1990; 5: 237-45.Pallotta R, Anceschi S, Costilgliola N, et al. Prospecttive di terapia iperbarica nella sclerosi a placce. Ann Med Nav 1980; 85: 57-62. have reported sustained benefit with follow-up.
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