MU Health Care has hyperbaric oxygen therapy services available 24/7 to treat emergencies as well as chronic wounds.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialized form of treatment that can help your body heal chronic wounds more efficiently or recover from conditions that would benefit from increased oxygen supply.

The body’s natural process of healing a cut on your hand or a scraped knee relies on oxygenated blood, which carries nutrients, signals to start cell rebuilding and oxygen to the affected area. But some wounds don’t heal as easily, or at all, despite the body’s best efforts, or there is an increased risk of infection.

That’s why experts like the doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists at MU Health Care offer a specialized treatment called hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy patient

When is hyperbaric oxygen therapy used?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat:

  • Air and gas bubbles in blood vessels, also called a vascular embolism
  • Severe anemia, or a low number of red blood cells, when blood transfusions cannot be used
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Complete hearing loss that occurs suddenly and without any known cause
  • Crush injuries
  • Decompression sickness caused by underwater diving
  • Gas gangrene, a dangerous infection that creates gas pockets in tissue with very poor blood flow
  • Large, severe burns treated at a specialized burn center
  • Non-healing wounds or chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers
  • Damage to skin or other tissue caused by radiation from cancer treatment
  • Severe skin and bone infections such as osteomyelitis
  • Skin graft flap at risk of tissue death
  • Vision loss (when sudden and painless in one eye due to blockage of blood flow)

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is performed in a specialized acrylic chamber that fills with pure oxygen at pressures two to three times the air you normally breathe. It takes five to 10 minutes to reach the prescribed pressure, and treatment is typically done in two-hour sessions.

Our team of hyperbaric therapy experts will guide you through the preparation process and answer any questions you have to ensure you are relaxed, comfortable and safe during treatment.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits

In emergencies such as carbon monoxide poisoning and vascular air embolisms, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a lifesaving treatment. Patients can report feeling better after one or two sessions.

Chronic wounds commonly require multiple sessions before symptoms are relieved and the healing process is visible. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be an important addition to the chronic wound healing regimen.

Risks, precautions and what to expect

If you are a candidate for hyperbaric oxygen treatment, the hyperbaric staff will first discuss the benefits, restrictions and potential risks with you.

In some cases, fire can be a risk when receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy. To ensure your safety during treatment, you will be asked to wear 100% cotton undergarments and provided scrubs during therapy. All patients have access to live cable TV, and a member of our therapy team will stay in the room to monitor and assist you.

Please do not wear anything flammable to your appointment, including:

  • Aftershave, cologne or perfume
  • Deodorant
  • Hair gel, hair spray or hair oil
  • Lotion, ointment, salves, mustache wax or other petroleum jelly products
  • Makeup or lipstick
  • Nail polish

The most common side effects are related to changes in pressure, such as ear and sinus pain. During pressurization our staff will help you equalize pressure in your ears to prevent ear and sinus pain.

Slight, temporary vision changes are possible but will resolve shortly after you finish treatment. In rare cases, injuries such as eardrum rupture, seizure or lung collapse are possible.

Patients have access to the hospital TV services, and a member of our therapy team will stay in the room to monitor and assist you. Please refrain from smoking during the weeks you are scheduled to receive therapy as this can interfere with healing.

Why choose MU Health Care?

University Hospital is the only hospital in the state with around-the-clock hyperbaric oxygen therapy services available to treat emergencies while also offering exemplary clinic care for chronic wounds. Our clinic services are offered at extended hours, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday, to accommodate your schedule.