Hyperbaric oxygen: its uses, mechanisms of action and outcomes


Hyperbaric oxygen: its uses, mechanisms of action and outcomes

A.L. GILL and C.N.A. BELL1 

From the University of Bristol, and 1

Bristol, UK

Division of Oral & Maxillo-Facial Surgery, Bristol Dental Hospital,


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is increasingly used in a number of areas of medical practice. It is a unique intervention whose method of action is not well understood. Clinicians may request its use for their patients, but often will not fully understand its mechanisms. It is hoped that this review and discussion of HBO and the literature surrounding its use may be useful to clinicians who are unsure whether their patients will benefit from this exciting intervention. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is defined by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) as a treatment in which a patient inter- mittently reathes 100% oxygen while the treatment chamber is pressurized to a pressure greater than sea level (1 atmosphere absolute, ATA).1 The pressure increase must be systemic, and may be applied in  onoplace (single person) or multiplace chambers. Multiplace chambers are pressurized with air, with oxygen given via f ace-mask, hood tent or endotracheal tube; while monoplace chambers are pressurized with oxygen. We began by obtaining the most recent UHMS committee report,1 and performed Medline searches (1966 to present), with the search terms ‘hyperbaric’ and ‘oxygen’, combining this basic search with searches for each of the thirteen indications recommended by the UHMS. Using information from these papers, and the resulting references, this paper outlines the history, physiology, current indications for and effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.


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