Our bodies need oxygen to live. Every single cell of your body uses oxygen to convert sugar and fats into the energy it needs. If oxygen is lacking, the cells cannot sustainably maintain their functions. Having said that, the reasons for any lack of oxygen are diverse and can be both chronic as well as acute.
In addition to diseases of the lungs and the heart, causes for insufficient oxygen supplies to cells can include poisoning (e.g. carbon monoxide poisoning), chronic vascular diseases, overpressure accidents or complicated wounds.
The goal of HBO therapy is to compensate for any local oxygen deficiencies by providing an oversupply of oxygen. This is only possible to a certain degree even when breathing in 100% oxygen under normal pressure.
In order to dissolve more oxygen into the blood, it is necessary to elevate the ambient pressure. Pursuant to Henry’s law (the solubility of a gas in a liquid is proportional to the pressure of the gas over the solution) the patient is subjected to a higher pressure atmosphere and more oxygen is physically dissolved in the blood and transported to the cells.
In order to create a pressure higher than atmospheric air, the patient spends a specific amount of time in therapy in a hyperbaric chamber – in such a session the patient breathes pure oxygen at an elevated ambient pressure.
In this fashion oxygen levels in the body can be achieved (also referred to as arterial oxygen partial pressure) which are several multiples higher than that possible under normal pressure conditions.
This improved oxygen supply enables diseased tissue suffering from oxygen depletion to regenerate over the long term, helping to excite and accelerate the healing processes.
In order to provide tissue threatened by hypoxia with oxygen over longer periods it is necessary for these tissues to create new blood capillaries [1-7]. This is only possible if a high oxygen gradient is created from the edge of the wound to the centre of the wound such that vascular sprouting can take place along the gradient.
As a result new capillaries form in the threatened tissue such that after successful conclusion of the treatment the formally at risk tissue is again sufficiently supplied with oxygen and nutrients. Metabolism is normalised, the tissue heals.