Oxygen is an essential part of your very existence. It fuels your organs and provides vitamins and minerals to every cell of your body. A lack of oxygen in your blood, known as hypoxemia, can point to various underlying health issues and cause a wide range of symptoms. However, having too much oxygen can also be a bad thing.
Replenishing your body with oxygen in a controlled environment may support your healing and help with a wide range of conditions. This is where hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT therapy can come into play, but as with many treatments, taking costs into account is essential. Learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy and the treatment costs in the Immunity Therapy Center guide below.
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a well-established treatment involving introducing pure oxygen into your body in a pressurized chamber. The therapy was initially introduced in the early 20th century as a treatment for the common flu.
In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you breathe in pure oxygen while you are placed in a chamber with two to three times the normal air pressure. This allows your lungs to gather much more oxygen than at normal pressure. As your blood gets oxygenated, it carries the oxygen through your body to fight bacteria and stimulate the release of growth factors and stem cells, which can further support your natural healing.
Your body’s tissues and organs naturally need oxygen to survive, but injured tissue needs even more oxygen. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment maximizes the amount of oxygen that your blood carries. With several sessions, the heightened oxygen level may encourage normal oxygen in damaged tissue.
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Used For?
While it was initially used for the flu, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has since become most commonly used to treat scuba divers who have developed decompression sickness, also known as the bends.
This condition is characterized by a buildup of concentrated gases, primarily nitrogen, in the blood. These gases can then form bubbles in your blood and lead to various symptoms. Using hyperbaric chamber treatment floods the body with oxygen while eliminating other harmful gases that have built up in the blood.
Other common uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Cyanide poisoning
- Wounds that are not healing on their own
- Skin or bone infections
- Arterial gas embolism (air bubbles in your blood vessel)
- Crushing injuries
How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Helps Your Body
So, what are the hyperbaric oxygen benefits? Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works through several mechanisms to improve your health and support your healing.
When your blood vessel gets damaged, they release fluids into nearby tissues and cause swelling. While swelling is a natural response to physical injury, it can prevent proper oxygen transport to damaged cells, potentially causing the tissue to die. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy floods the cells with oxygen to prevent that swelling and support regular wound healing.
Prevents Reperfusion Injury
Certain injuries, particularly crush injuries, involve sudden oxygen deprivation. As the blood supply tries to return to these tissues, the rush of blood to damaged cells actually contributes to even more severe tissue damage.
This is primarily a product of oxygen radicals. These molecules can cause permanent damage to tissues, causing blood vessels to close and inhibit normal blood flow. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy supports the release of substances that neutralize oxygen radicals to allow for natural healing to take place.
Encourages Skin Cell Growth
By encouraging the formation of new blood vessels, hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes way for new skin cells and collagen. Collagen is one of the main proteins in the body that makes up much of the connective tissue throughout your body.
Supporting Natural Immunities
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy effectively disables the toxins of certain bacteria, rendering them functionless. The increased oxygen concentration in tissues also helps to resist bacterial infection while supporting the function of white blood cells. White blood cells are one of the main cells in the immune system and are designed to find and destroy potential microbial invaders.
The Cost of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
The exact hyperbaric oxygen therapy cost will vary based on countless factors. However, it is an established and approved treatment for numerous conditions. Medicaid, Medicare, and most health insurance companies will cover the costs of hyperbaric therapy for approved conditions, though that may not hold true for every circumstance.
For example, depending on the provider, your insurance company may deem hyperbaric oxygen treatment as medically necessary for carbon monoxide poisoning or non-healing wounds. It may not deem the therapy medically necessary for Bell’s palsy or Crohn’s disease.
For approved conditions covered by your health insurance, you may have to pay a coinsurance of 10 to 50 percent or a simple copay of $10 to $50. Without insurance, the costs can vary widely.
At a hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic, you may have to pay $100 per session. For larger medical hospitals that also have hyperbaric oxygen chambers, you may pay upwards of $1,000 per session. Some clinics may also charge by the hour instead of per session.
Thankfully, some providers may provide discounts for those who require several sessions in a row. Others may offer sliding scale payments, so consult with your insurance provider to determine what works for your budget.
As you budget your treatment, you should also include other diagnostic tests administered prior to the hyperbaric treatment. This may include blood tests, chest X-rays, and other general exams.
The Procedure for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Typically offered as an outpatient procedure, hyperbaric therapy may be performed while you are a hospitalized patient. During the process, you may be placed in one of two different types of chambers.
- A monoplace chamber is a unit designed for a singular person. It typically involves a table that you lie down on as the table slides into a clear chamber.
- A multiplace chamber accommodates several people at once. These chambers usually look like a normal hospital room where you sit or lie down. With a multiplace hyperbaric chamber, each patient receives oxygen via a mask or hood worn over their heads.
The process requires little from you. You simply have to take deep breaths while you sit, lie down, or otherwise relax comfortably during the session. Most sessions last two hours, and your doctor may recommend more than one session depending on what is ailing you. As the hyperbaric treatment progresses, your health care team will monitor your health.
During the process, your ears may feel plugged up from the increased pressure, similar to when you ride a plane or hiking at a high elevation. Yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum is typically enough to pop your ears and maintain your comfort.
Following your session, your doctor or health care team will take your pulse and blood pressure and monitor your vitals. If you have diabetes, they will measure your blood sugar levels. Once they determine that you are okay, you can leave.
So, what are the hyperbaric chamber side effects? You may feel lightheaded, tired, or hungry, but the HBOT therapy generally does not come with any side effects. You can usually return your everyday activities without issue.
Hyperbaric oxygen treatments may be effective for numerous health conditions, but the costs can vary. Consult your doctor to determine if HBOT is the right treatment for your needs.
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- Up To Date. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy
- Bennett MH, Mitchell SJ. Emerging indications for hyperbaric oxygen. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2019;32(6):792-798. doi:10.1097/ACO.0000000000000773
- Health Costhelper. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Cost. https://health.costhelper.com/hyperbaric-oxygen-treatment-cost.html
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.