Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room. The therapy is a well-established treatment for decompression sickness, a hazard of scuba diving. Other conditions treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy include serious infections, bubbles of air in your blood vessels, burns, crushing injuries, gangrene, skin grafts and flaps at risk of tissue death, severe anemia, and wounds that won’t heal as a result of diabetes or radiation injury.
In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room, the air pressure is raised up to three times higher than normal air pressure. Under these conditions, lungs can gather up to three times more oxygen than would be possible breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure.
Blood then carries this oxygen throughout the body, stimulating the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which promote healing. The tissues of the body need an adequate supply of oxygen to function. When tissue is injured, it requires even more oxygen to survive. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen the blood can carry. An increase in blood oxygen temporarily restores normal levels of blood gases and tissue function to promote healing and fight infection.
Hyperbaric medicine can be an invaluable therapy in improving the quality of life for some patients and can oftentimes be life saving.
Several PMA physicians have obtained special training and are certified in the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In this area, Mercy San Juan Medical Center is the only hospital offering this service.