Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves breathing pure oxygen at a greater than atmospheric pressure, equivalent to a shallow dive of no more than 33 feet under water.
Do you really have to 'dive' under water?
No! All treatment takes place in a dry, comfortable chamber, with other people. The chamber doesn't go anywhere although each session is referred to as a 'dive'. Whilst in the chamber you can listen to the radio, read a magazine (we have a large selection) or you can just relax and look out of the window. There is an intercom so that you can communicate with the chamber operator at all times. Oxygen is breathed through a mask or mouth piece, depending which is preferred. There are certain items that you will not be allowed to take into the chamber with you in order to comply with important fire and safety regulations. This will be discussed before you start your initial course of treatment and you will be asked if you have any banned items each time you dive. A trained operator supervises each dive and makes sure you are well looked after. If you experience any discomfort as the chamber pressurises, (it's a little like the cabin in an aircraft as it takes off and climbs) speak through the intercom and they can slow it down or stop, until your ears clear. In fact speak to them about anything to do with the chamber operation - they are experts! If you'd like to know a bit about the workings of the chamber follow this link.
OK, but what does it do?
When we breathe in air, only 21 % is oxygen. The remainder is composed of nitrogen and other gasses. Even if we breathe pure oxygen at normal pressure, only 21 % is used by the body. But oxygen is a great-natural healing agent and in order to increase the supply it must be breathed at pressure. When this is done the oxygen is absorbed in the blood plasma as well as the usual oxygen carrying red blood cells. Red blood cells cannot reach areas with reduced blood flow (at attack sites - plaques) like plasma can and it is the oxygen carried in the plasma that goes to work, allowing repair to take place. The rapid repair helps to prevent the formation of scars (sclerosis) which lead to permanent impairment of nerve function.
So how long does it take?
Each session last an hour, with time added on to allow the chamber to pressurise and then de-pressurise at the end of the dive. This will take approximately 10 to 35 minutes depending on the depth of the dive. We recommend that you spend a few minutes after the dive relaxing over a cup of tea or coffee. You may feel a little more tired during the first few days, so make sure your schedule isn't too strenuous. Otherwise there are no side effects.
Do I need to tell my doctor or ask his permission?
No. You can refer yourself, we just ask you to sign a disclaimer. This is just a formality as the medical risks involved are negligible. Though as a matter of courtesy to your doctor or healthcare professional, a form is available for their information which can be downloaded here. A full assessment of your health will be made prior to treatment. The only absolute contra-indication to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is untreated collapsed lung. We would like to know before we commence treatment if you have ever suffered or are currently suffering from any of the following:
- Respiratory/lung problems
- Heart problems
- Any type of surgery to the heart or lungs
- Ear or sinus problems
- Epilepsy or diabetes
- High fever
These may not necessarily exclude you from treatment, but you may need to speak to your GP before we can begin. You can attend therapy sessions even if you are pregnant. It is advisable not to attend if you have a cold or sore throat, as your ears may be affected when pressurising. We need to know if you are taking any medication or involved in a drug trial.
When should treatment start?
As soon as possible after diagnosis. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is not a cure - the disease as yet is incurable. However, studies have shown that the therapy is most effective if started early. Initially, this means a course of 15 sessions spread over 3 weeks. During this time we will regularly assess your progress and change the depth of your dives accordingly. After this you will need to attend for regular 'top-up' sessions, usually once or twice a week. This is very important in order to maintain any benefit
How long will I need to keep coming for treatment?
HBO is a preventative therapy and its effect on symptoms cannot be predicted with certainty. Hopefully, development of new symptoms may slow down or even stop. Although we know treatment works, people respond differently. No one can be sure what will happen, either now or in the future. One thing for certain though - benefits will stop if you do. Should you suffer another attack, or feel that symptoms are worsening, speak to Joanne Goodwin the Centre Manager so that you can have another session as soon as possible. It may also be necessary to increase the frequency or depth of your dives. It is extremely important to continue with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy once you have started. After all, it is only a couple of hours a week and we can generally find a day and time to suit you.