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What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the delivery of 100% oxygen under pressure. HBOT has rapidly grown from being used only in the treatment of SCUBA divers with decompression illness (“the bends”) to a large number of clinical applications throughout the world.

At the pressures used in the hyperbaric chamber, the veterinary patient’s plasma and tissue oxygen level is 15 times greater than is normally present with 100 percent oxygen at sea level. With HBOT, oxygen diffuses through tissues even when blood supply to the area is significantly compromised. When there are constricted or compromised vessels, plasma tends to flow through more readily than red blood cells, which normally carry the oxygenated blood. When plasma is exposed to hyperbaric oxygen it can carry up to 20 times more oxygen to tissues alone without the red blood cells being involved. Therefore, small compromised capillaries can deliver oxygen to the tissues they supply even when only plasma can pass through them. Therefore, oxygen delivered by HBOT can make the difference between cell death or cell recovery.

Hyperbaric therapy is able to increase tissue oxygen levels in diseased tissue which improves and speeds healing, improves the body’s ability to fight infections, and reduces inflammation and swelling. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is both a primary treatment and a complementary therapy. Consequently, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used alone or in conjunction with conventional therapies.

100 percent oxygen at two to three times the atmospheric pressure at sea level can result in arterial oxygen tension in excess of 2000 mm Hg and oxygen tension in tissue of almost 400 mm Hg.


Dennis R. Geiser, BS, DVM, CHT-V, Dip ABVP Equine
Professor of Orthopedic Surgery & Director of Surgical Service

Plafki, C, Peters, P, Almeling, M, Welslau, W & Busch, R.
Complications and side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Aviat Space Environ Med 71, 119-124 (2000).

Chavko, M, Mahon, RT & McCarron, RM.
Mechanisms of protection against pulmonary hyperbaric O(2) toxicity by intermittent air breaks. Eur J Appl Physiol 102, 525-532, doi:10.1007/s00421-007-0611-8 (2008).

Mindy Johnson, DVM, CHT-V, CCRT
Vice President of VEPRA, Veterinary European of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Association.

Andrea L. Henderson, DVM, CCRT, CCRP
Resident, Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

Steven M.Fox, MS, DVM, MBA, PhD
President Securos. Inc


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