Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A questionable treatment for autism
Against allopathy
Alternative medicine
Clinically unproven
As they pull you out of the oxygen tent, you ask for the latest party
—David Bowie, "Diamond Dogs"

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical procedure involving the administration of large amounts of oxygen to the patient, which has, in recent years, been used in questionable ways. The atmosphere they are treated with is both higher in oxygen content than normal air (or even 100% oxygen), and at a higher pressure than normal. Proponents of its more questionable uses claim that it can be useful in the treatment of a variety of ailments, including allergies, depression, and ulcers. However, large doses of oxygen can damage the body and cause seizures.

It should be understood that hyperbaric chambers are used legitimately in the treatment of the bends, or other lung injuries, but these chambers generally use compressed air (normal oxygen, normal nitrogen, et al.) and slowly release the pressure to alleviate symptoms. They are also used in cases of carbon monoxide poisoning to force oxygen to dissolve directly in to the blood, bypassing the carbon monoxide-compromised blood cells to get oxygen to the body's cells. HBOT has also been used for cutaneous gas gangrene, as the bacterium that causes it — Clostridium perfringens — cannot tolerate the presence of free oxygen; but results have been mixed, and it appears to be effective only as part of a larger, systematic approach to treatment.


Use of a hyperbaric chamber comes with risks. These include:[1][2]

  • Middle ear injuries
  • Lung collapse
  • Sinus damage
  • Seizures
  • Fire (since the environment is oxygen-rich)

Due to the risks associated with hyperbaric chambers, it's best not to use them unless you have a proven medical need. Never allow an amateur to control the chamber.

Quack treatments[edit]

Kent Hovind and hyperbaric oxygen therapy[edit]

Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind has stated, among other highly imaginative claims, that the earth before the flood was a kind of hyperbaric chamber in its own right. He uses this argument to bolster his views that in pre-flood times, humans could grow to giant heights and live many hundreds of years. This is probably what Andrew Schlafly was getting at when he made note that liberals typically oppose or disparage the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Hyperbaric Medical Solutions[edit]

Hyperbaric Medical Solutions located in Medford, New York offers hyperbaric treatment for both FDA-approved and other conditions, including likely quack treatments for such conditions as Lyme disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.[3]

Hyperbaric Medical Solutions is affiliated with and located in the same building as New Beginnings Community Center, which provides "treatment to individuals with traumatic brain injury" and accepted the body of a brain-dead child for "treatment".[4][5]


Autistic children may be subjected to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, even though autism is definitely not caused by lack of oxygen.[citation NOT needed]

Pseudoscientific groups such as the Autism "Research" Institute have encouraged hyperberic oxygen therapy to be used on autistic children, claiming that it treats the neuroinflammation supposedly tied to autism.[6]

Frighteningly, parents can buy hyperbaric chambers for their homes,[6] even though they may have no idea how to use it safely.

Actual medical uses[edit]

While woo promoters make made-up claims about the uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, there are actual medically proven uses for it, which include:

  • Treatment of massive smoke inhalation (such as in a house fire)
  • Treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Treatment of thermal burns
  • Treatment of decompression sickness (also called the bends)
  • Treatment of gas gangrene (caused by the obligate anaerobe Clostridium perfringens)

In most of these cases, a higher than normal concentration of oxygen is given to counteract a reduced efficiency of the lungs to absorb oxygen. In the treatment of decompression sickness, the oxygen enriched breathing gas increases the rate at which nitrogen will be eliminated from the body.

See also[edit]

  • Oxygen therapy — alternative medicine often involving hydrogen peroxide
  • Lyme disease — a disease that a large number of HBO therapists claim to treat.

External links[edit]