Myths and Misconceptions about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

HBOT has recently been marketed as a new innovative treatment having wide applications in multiple branches of medicine from treating chronic ulcers to carbon monoxide poisoning. This type of treatment is done with the administration of 100% oxygen in a hyperbaric chamber at a pressure higher than the normal atmospheric pressure to boost the body’s ability to heal itself. While HBOT expands its utilization in various clinics and continues receiving public interest for its healing abilities, it comes with so many myths and wrong perceptions that might influence the general people.

Here, we shall consider the major myths that people have found regarding HBOT. Hence, to address the question of what exactly HBOT can and cannot do, it is pertinent to deconstruct how it began and analyze the facts and ideas behind it. By doing so, we got an understanding of HBOT as an effective treatment and aimed at helping the readers to wrap their heads around this complicated clinical procedure.

HBOT is a Cure-All Treatment

Origin of the Myth

HBOT is largely considered to be a cure for all kinds of ailments, which may have arisen from early literature and stories about its wonderful impact on diseases. Some enthusiasts started identifying it as a miracle cure for a myriad of complexions with contradictory evidence of the benefits of HBOT to conditions ranging from autism to multiple sclerosis. This greatly fueled the popularity of HBOT and added to it the testimonial of patients who said that they felt much better, even if they had what seemed like an incurable disease.

Reality Check

While HBOT has proven benefits for certain conditions, it is far from a universal remedy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies have approved HBOT for specific indications such as:

  • Decompression sickness
  • Air or gas embolism
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chronic non-healing wounds, particularly diabetic foot ulcers
  • Certain types of infections, like necrotizing fasciitis

These approved uses are based on robust clinical evidence demonstrating HBOT’s effectiveness in these contexts. However, claims that HBOT can cure a wide array of other conditions, such as autism, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis, lack sufficient scientific support. The therapy’s benefits are highly dependent on the condition being treated, the patient’s overall health, and the specific protocols used.

HBOT is Only for Divers

Origin of the Myth

There has been a direct link between hyperbaric oxygen therapy and diving ever since the therapy was created and designed. HBOT has been initially used for the treatment of decompression sickness, popularly termed as “the bends,” a condition affecting divers who surface too quickly and as a result nitrogen bubbles form in the arterial and venous blood. Given the historical background of this therapy and its origin for treating problems divers face in the water, it is still astonishing, how many people today consider HBOT as a therapy only for divers. This lacks vision fails to consider the widen field of medical uses that have been since been approved and found worthy.

Broader Medical Applications

While popularly believed to be only useful in the treatment of cases that arise from underwater diving, HBOT is today accredited to be useful in the treatment of several diseases. Its ability to enhance oxygen delivery to tissues and promote healing processes has led to its use in several FDA-approved indications, including:

  • Chronic Non-Healing Wounds: Most appropriate for extended-use situations such as diabetes-related foot ulcers and other chronic lesions.
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: It aids in replacing carbon monoxide in hemoglobin, which restores the usual blood oxygen-carrying function.
  • Radiation Injuries: To be taken as a treatment for the injury of the tissues and bones due to radiation therapy.
  • Infections: It is effective and widely used in treating necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) as well as other severe infections.
  • Skin Grafts and Flaps: Enhances the viability of reperfusion of the ischaemic grafts and flaps through the amelioration of oxygenation.

HBOT is Dangerous and Unreliable

Origin of the Myth

Some proponents believe that the treatment is quite risky and hence, not reliable due to the fact that it uses a high-pressure treatment as well as pure oxygen, which in most cases is dangerous when administered unsafely. This makes HBOT may appear quite complex to people, especially those who have no prior knowledge of the specialized equipment or technical knowledge needed for administering this therapy.

Safety Protocols and Regulations

In actuality, HBOT is a standard procedure that has been gone through numerous checks and follow-ups prior to its administration. Any HBOT service provider establishment ensures that organizations, rules and regulations pertaining to safety measures are adopted to the letter. These protocols are set down at the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) and other governmental and non-governmental organizations that set up guidelines for the use of hyperbaric chambers.

Safety measures include:

  • Proper Patient Screening: Some of the important neutralizations includes the presence of untreated pneumothorax, several respiratory diseases, and some drugs and other treatment interactions.
  • Controlled Pressurization and Depressurization: Slow increase in pressure to help in avoiding extreme cases such as barotrauma.
  • Monitoring Oxygen Levels: The regulation of the levels of oxygen to avoid high concentration and its consequent toxicity.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Creating procedures to guarantee that the staff is prepared to address an emergency and facilities to make sure tools are examined and kept appropriately.

HBOT is a New and Unproven Technology

Historical Background

Experienced practitioners may have a misunderstanding about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy being new and still experimental because even though HBOT first entered the mainstream medical practice relatively recently, it has already been around for significantly more than a century. Nevertheless, the practice of utilizing oxygen at high pressure dates back to the 17th century. The oldest hyperbaric chamber was originated by British doctor, Dr Nathaniel Henshaw in 1662. The modern form of the HBOT was developed in the early 20th century when it was first employed to treat cases of decompression sickness in divers and workers who used the caisson.

Scientific Validation

HBOT has passed through many research studies and clinical trials that affirm its effectiveness and safety. It is recognized and approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for several indications including:

  • Decompression Sickness: The treatment is highly effective for divers who suffer from this grave condition known as the bends.
  • Air or Gas Embolism: It plays a crucial role in the elimination of air bubbles in the circulation.
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Assists in releasing carbon monoxide from hemoglobin.
  • Chronic Non-Healing Wounds: Especially for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers that are very painful.
  • Radiation Injuries: Facilitates healing of tissues that are generally affected by radiation treatment.


It is important to remove the existing prejudices and misconceptions regarding the application of HBOT. While the HBOT chamber is traditionally linked with divers and problems related to diving, it gives positive results with a wide range of illnesses apart from Decompression Sickness. It is a tried and true form of treatment backed up by scientific evidence and effectiveness for particular situations. Besides, the appropriate measures in safety make sure that HBOT is a safe therapy in the treatment of patients to be cured. Understanding the potential and real applications of the HBOT chamber is crucial as it will ensure that patients and all related stakeholders make appropriate use of this vital equipment.

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