Indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy


Answers to common questions about HBOT.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows a patient to breathe high concentrations of oxygen by placing the patient in a chamber and increasing the air pressure around them. By breathing 100 percent oxygen under increased pressure, veterinarians can increase the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood by as much as 15 times normal concentrations. Hyperbaric therapy increases pressure thereby condensing the oxygen molecules in the alveolus, making more molecules available at the alveolar-capillary interface for diffusion into the blood. It is likened to a scuba diver going underwater to a certain depth.

How is hyperbaric oxygentherapy applied to the patient?

The patient is placed in a chamber of suitable size and the pressure surrounding the patient is increased by allowing oxygen to flow into the sealed chamber.

What is the goal of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

The goal of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is to increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the diseased tissue to help it heal. As we increase the concentration of oxygen in the blood to very high levels we increase the amount of oxygen and the distance oxygen diffuses in the tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies (integrative medicine).

What is a treatment protocol?

Oxygen should be considered a drug, and just as any other drug, we might administer it has various doses, frequencies of administration and duration of therapy depending on what disease is being treated. For example, a protocol might call for a patient to receive two atmospheres of pressure (like diving to 33 feet in the ocean) for one hour every-other day for seven to 10 treatments.

What are the indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is both a primary treatment and a complementary therapy. Consequently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies (integrative medicine).

There are many indications for this therapy. In general, any condition or disease in which the circulation to the diseased tissue has been compromised will benefit from this therapy. Hyperbaric therapy is a primary treatment for some diseases including severe smoke inhalation, Clostridial and other anaerobic infections, and compromised wounds. Hyperbaric therapy is beneficial in athletic injuries such as desmitis, tendonitis and fractures. Other diseases for which hyperbaric therapy is indicated include acute laminitis, reperfusion diseases (intestinal obstruction, colon torsions, volvulus, etc.), enteritis, ileus, endotoxemia, infertility, Rhodococcus pneumonia, Lyme’s disease, blastomycosis, osteomyelitis, compressive chord lesions post op, cerebral trauma and vascular disease, peripheral neuropathies, to mention just a few.

Are there risks associatedwith this therapy?

The risks associated with hyperbaric therapy are minimal if it is properly applied. As with any drug therapy, there are occasions where unanticipated reactions occur, but these are rare. Thousands of people and animals have been successfully treated with this therapy. Oxygen toxicity and barotrauma are two effects of administering oxygen under pressure that are continuously monitored for during therapy. The incidence of these effects is minimized by proper dosing, frequency, duration of pressure and oxygen, and proper compression and decompression procedures.

Are there side effectsof hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

The side effects in animals are very infrequent. Most side effects studied in humans are usually transient and disappear when the therapy is discontinued.


Central Nervous System

• Cranial/spinal chord trauma

• Cerebral/global ischemia

• Compressive chord diseases

• Fibro-cartilagenous emboli

• Cortical blindness

• Tetraparesis

• Peripheral nerve injury

• Equine protozoal myelitis


• Athletic injuries

• Tendonitis

• Desmitis

• Periostitis

• Fracture

• Laminitis

• Myositis

• Crush injuries

Infectious Diseases

• Osteomyelitis

• Septic arthritis

• Septicemia

• Endotoxemia

• Blastomycosis

• Lyme disease

• Anaerobic infections

• Intracranial and abdominal abscess


• Hypotension

• Shock, all causes

• Cardiac infarction

• Acute anemia

• Reperfusion disease

• Carbon monoxide/cyanide toxicity

• Smoke inhalation

• Lymphangitis


• Exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage

• Pleuritis

• Sinusitis

• Pulmonary edema

Rhodococcus infection

• Cutaneous


• Thermal burns

• Compromised grafts/flaps

• Envenomnation—spider, snake


• Ileus

• Pancreatitis

• Peritonitis

• Ulcers

• Reperfusion


• Infertility

• Pre- and post-radiation therapy

Source: The University of Tennessee Center for Veterinary Hyperbaric Medicine

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