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Choosing the right hyperbaric chamber

A hyperbaric chamber allows one or more patients to be placed in an atmosphere where the pressure is higher than atmospheric pressure. This overpressure, which leads to a higher oxygen concentration, has many therapeutic applications.

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  • What can a hyperbaric chamber be used for?

    A hyperbaric chamber increases the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood and tissue, including in poorly vascularized areas. It can be used to oxygenate damaged tissues or to reduce the proliferation of certain bacteria that only grow in an oxygen-deficient environment.

    Some therapeutic applications of a hyperbaric chamber include treating decompression sickness, skin injuries, burns and carbon monoxide poisoning as well as post-radiotherapy treatment.

    • Treating decompression sickness/gas embolism: this can occur when divers ascend too quickly to the surface after a deep or long underwater dive without making decompression stops. It can also affect people who have worked in compressed air tanks, airmen at high altitudes or astronauts after an spacewalk. Treatment by hyperbaric oxygen therapy is very effective in these cases.
    • Treating skin injuries and burns: some wounds or burns do not heal or gangrene very quickly. Hyperbaric chambers are often used for severe burns in particular. People with bedsores, gangrene and Buerger’s disease as well as diabetics with wounds can also be treated in hyperbaric chambers.
    • Post-radiotherapy treatment: complications can occur after radiotherapy is used to treat cancer, such as late radiation-induced tissue damage. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves the oxygen supply to damaged tissue and prevents necrosis.
    • Treating carbon monoxide poisoning: following severe carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, late neurological sequelae may result, especially if there has been loss of consciousness. This can lead to memory problems, personality disorders and mood changes. Treatment in a hyperbaric chamber appears to be very effective in reducing the risk of late effects.

    The main therapeutic applications:

    • Treating decompression sickness/gas embolism
    • Treating skin injuries and burns
    • Post-radiotherapy treatment
    • Treating carbon monoxide poisoning
  • What configurations are available for hyperbaric chambers?

    OxyHealth Europe inflatable hyperbaric chamber

    There are different confirguations available for hyperbaric chambers: fixed, on casters, inflatable and containerized.

    • Fixed hyperbaric chambers are permanently installed in certain hospital units and are often multiplace. Some have up to ten places.
    • Inflatable hyperbaric chambers are lightweight and can be inflated anywhere for great freedom of movement. They are generally monoplace. They are especially used for home treatment.
    • Containerized hyperbaric chambers can be transported by trucks or specialized vehicles. They can be installed on drilling platforms or military vessels, for example.
  • What are the risks related to hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

    There are two types of risks: technical infrastructure risks and biological risks to the patient.

    Perry Baromedical oxygen therapy hyperbaric chamber

    • Technical risks: oxygenation in hyperbaric chambers involves certain technical risks related to gas toxicity, fire and explosion hazards and installation defects. It is therefore import to ensure that you:
      • Monitor the toxicity of the administered gases by following the limits of use of the different gases according to their partial pressures.
      • Limit fire and explosion risks by verifying that the chamber has been constructed in non-combustible materials; avoiding the presence of any combustible fats in the vicinity and pouring oxygen outside the chamber to avoid an excessive concentration of oxygen inside.
      • Verify that the chamber is completely sealed so the desired pressure inside remains stable. It must also be equipped with a permanent control system for the environment inside the chamber.
    • Biological risks: risks to the patient may be either pressure-related or oxygen-related.
      • Risk of barotrauma to eardrums, lungs, digestive system, sinuses or teeth due to overpressure.
      • Risk of hyperoxia this can be neurological (Paul Bert effect) or pulmonary (Lorrain Smith effect). In the first case, the patient may have a generalized seizure due to the oxygen partial pressure. In the second case, and in the event of prolonged exposure, lesion-like pulmonary edema may form and progress to fibrosis.
  • What are the veterinary applications?

    hvm veterinary hyperbaric chamber

    Animals, like humans, can receive hyperbaric treatment in hyperbaric chambers. The main animals treated with hyperbaric oxygenation are pets (i.e. dogs, cats) and livestock (i.e. horses).

    Different chambers can be used for animals. Some clinics choose to use the same chambers as for humans, while others use specially designed animal chambers. There are also hyperbaric chamber models for oxygen treatment of large animals, such as horses and camels. In these cases the animal breathes oxygen through a mask, making it safer and cheaper. In some cases, the animal, such as a cat, can be placed in an acrylic cage which is then placed inside the hyperbaric chamber. This prevents the animal from wandering around in the chamber and allows, if necessary, two caged animals to be treated simultaneously.

    Veterinary applications are similar to those used for humans, excluding decompression sickness etc. This includes wound healing; infection and burn treatment; carbon monoxide poisoning; envenomation, etc.

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