Hyperbaric is often confused with hyperbolic, but that is just a common mispronunciation. A hyperbaric chamber is designed to deliver pure oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure. It is usually made out of glass and metal. The tanks are able to house one person (monoplace) or several people (multiplace) at a time.
The therapy that hyperbaric chambers are used for is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT.
HBOT is administered in a few different ways. This includes a mask or a hood, a “soft” chamber or in a sealed “hard” chamber.
When a patient still has their circulation intact, they will be able to use a mask, hood or “soft” chamber. All three of these methods increase the patient’s inhaled oxygen levels, and allows them to take in more than they would regularly breathe through room air. However, they cannot be pressurized like when using a “hard” chamber. This makes the uses of masks, hoods and soft chambers limited.
When a patient’s vasculature (blood flow to tissues) is poor or damaged, they can use a “hard” chamber. A patient would be placed in a chamber while it is filled with pure oxygen. Inside of the chamber, the atmospheric pressure is raised to 2-3 absolute atmosphere (ATA). As a reference, the normal atmospheric pressure is at 1 ATA. The point of raising the atmospheric level this high in the chamber is to push oxygen into the tissue of the person from outside.
A chamber may also be used to help cure health issues, which require changing the atmospheric pressure around a patient for a certain length of time. This “depressurizing” can be used for those suffering from the “bends” or decompression sickness. This was one of the original reasons the “hard” chamber was invented.
The pressurizing process is similar to that of a descending submarine. You will have an HBO specialist with you during your therapy. Either a nurse, doctor or technician who will stay with you for your entire therapy session. To help you get to adequate pressure, your specialist will guide you with in ear pressure-relieving techniques. They will coach you through swallowing, taking sips of water or gently blowing while pinching your nose.
Therapy sessions typically last 90 to 120 minutes, but this does not include air brakes. Patients will usually need 20 to 30 treatments. These treatments usually span a few several weeks.
Soft chambers and oxygen masks can be appealing for patients, especially because of their cost and convenience. But they are both not nearly as effective as hard chamber therapy. Using these other solutions cannot raise the ATA high enough for effectively treating health conditions that requires HBOT. These other solutions may even prove dangerous without the proper administration or if used to treat health problems incorrectly. If you need HBOT, always consult a professional medical practitioner before taking things into your own hands on your own.