A chamber device used in Hyperbaric medicine, also known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which is the medical use of oxygen at a level higher than atmospheric pressure. Several therapeutic principles are made use of in HBOT:
- The increased overall pressure is of therapeutic value when HBOT is used in the treatment of decompression sickness and air embolism.
- For many other conditions, the therapeutic principle of HBOT lies in a drastically increased partial pressure of oxygen in the tissues of the body. The oxygen partial pressures achievable under HBOT are much higher than those under breathing pure oxygen at normobaric conditions (i.e. at normal atmospheric pressure).
- A related effect is the increased oxygen transport capacity of the blood. Under atmospheric pressure, oxygen transport is limited by the oxygen binding capacity of hemoglobin in red blood cells and very little oxygen is transported by blood plasma. Because the hemoglobin of the red blood cells is almost saturated with oxygen under atmospheric pressure, this route of transport cannot be exploited any further. Oxygen transport by plasma, however is significantly increased under HBOT.
In the United States, the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, known as UHMS, approves for reimbursement diagnoses for application of HBOT in hospitals. The following indications are approved uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as defined by the UHMS Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Committee.
- Air or gas embolism
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Clostridal Myositis and Myonecrosis
- Crush Injury, Compartment syndrome, and other Acute Traumatic Ischemias
- Decompression sickness
- Enhancement of Healing in Selected Problem Wounds
- Exceptional Blood Loss
- Intracranial Abscess
- Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
- Delayed Radiation Injury
- Skin Grafts & Flaps
- Thermal Burns
In the United States, HBOT is recognized by Medicare as a reimbursable treatment for 14 UHMS "approved" conditions. An HBOT session costs anywhere from $100 to $200 in private clinics, to over $1,000 in hospitals. U.S. physicians may lawfully prescribe HBOT for "off-label" conditions such as Lyme Disease, stroke and migraines. Such patients are treated in outpatient clinics. In the United Kingdom most chambers are financed by the National Health Service, although some, such as those run by Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centres, are non-profit.
A hyperbaric chamber's usefulness is not limited to decompression sickness. Certain diseases, such as diabetes or anemia, do not allow blood cells to become supersaturated with oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure. By placing the patient in a hyperbaric chamber and administering pure oxygen, doctors can increase the amount of oxygen cells carried off through the bloodstream. Patients suffering from gas gangrene or flesh-eating bacterial infections can also benefit from the hyperbaric chamber's increased atmospheric pressure.
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