Does hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) really work?

The question of whether Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) truly works is one that we at Revivo take very seriously. After all, we’re committed to offering treatments backed by solid scientific evidence, ensuring that our patients have access to the most effective therapies available. The short answer is a resounding yes—HBOT does work, and there’s a substantial body of scientific research to support its efficacy. Let’s dive into some of the key studies that shine a light on the benefits of HBOT, demonstrating its positive impacts across a range of conditions.

In total, there are 200+ studies looking at the safety and efficacy of HBOT, and most of them demonstrate positive outcomes. These cover the following conditions:

Official conditions:

1. Air or Gas Embolism

  • Study Overview: Treatment of iatrogenic air embolism with hyperbaric oxygen. A case series and literature review.
  • Reference: Weaver LK. Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine. 2014.

2. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen for carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Reference: Buckley NA, Juurlink DN, Isbister G, Bennett MH, Lavonas EJ. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011.

3. Gas Gangrene (Clostridial Myonecrosis)

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for gas gangrene and other clostridial infections.
  • Reference: Hart GB, Strauss MB. New England Journal of Medicine. 1990.

4. Crush Injuries and Suturing of Severed Limbs

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the management of crush injuries: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.
  • Reference: Mathieu D, et al. Journal of Trauma. 1993.

5. Decompression Sickness

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of decompression sickness.
  • Reference: Bennett MH, Lehm JP, Mitchell SJ. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015.

6. Arterial Insufficiencies

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for arterial insufficiencies: Central retinal artery occlusion and chronic limb-threatening ischemia.
  • Reference: Multiple authors. Various journals, including Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine and European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery.

7. Severe Anemia

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy as an adjunctive treatment for severe anemia in patients who cannot receive blood transfusions.
  • Reference: Carson S, et al. Journal of Hyperbaric Medicine. 1990.

8. Intracranial Abscess

  • Study Overview: The role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the management of intracranial abscesses.
  • Reference: Jain KK. Neurological Research. 1999.

9. Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for necrotizing fasciitis reduces mortality and the need for debridements.
  • Reference: Shaw JJ, Psoinos C, Emhoff TA, Shah SA, Santry HP. Surgery. 2012.

10. Osteomyelitis (Refractory)

  • Study Overview: Adjunctive hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the treatment of chronic refractory osteomyelitis.
  • Reference: Mader JT, Adams KR, Sutton TE. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 1980.

11. Delayed Radiation Injury (Soft Tissue and Bony Necrosis)

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for late radiation tissue injury.
  • Reference: Bennett MH, Feldmeier J, Smee R, Milross C. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012.

12. Compromised Skin Grafts and Flaps

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for compromised skin grafts and flaps.
  • Reference: Marx RE, Ehler WJ, Tayapongsak P, Pierce LW. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1990.

13. Thermal Burns

  • Study Overview: Hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of burns.
  • Reference: Cianci P, Sato R. Annals of Plastic Surgery. 1994.

Off-Label Conditions

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has been traditionally used for a range of FDA-approved medical conditions, but it’s also being explored for “off-label” uses where it’s not specifically approved but may still offer benefits. Off-label uses of HBOT include a variety of conditions, leveraging the therapy’s potential to enhance oxygen delivery to tissues, which can stimulate healing, reduce inflammation, and support recovery.

Notable off-label conditions where HBOT has shown promise include:

1. Chronic Pain Conditions

  • Conditions such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, and peripheral neuropathy may benefit from HBOT through its anti-inflammatory effects and enhanced tissue oxygenation. Reference: Sutherland, Ainsley M., et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: a new treatment for chronic pain?.” Pain Practice 16.5 (2016): 620-628.

2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • HBOT may help manage PTSD symptoms by improving brain oxygenation and reducing inflammation.
  • Reference: Eve, David J., et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder associated with traumatic brain injury.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment (2016): 2689-2705.

3. Stroke Rehabilitation

  • HBOT could support neuroplasticity and aid recovery of neurological function post-stroke through increased oxygen availability to affected brain regions.
  • Reference: Bennett, Michael H., et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for acute ischaemic stroke.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews 11 (2014).

4. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

  • Some evidence suggests HBOT can improve symptoms and behaviors associated with ASD.
  • Reference: Rossignol, Daniel A., et al. “Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders.” Medical Gas Research 2.1 (2012): 1-13.

5. Tinnitus

  • Investigated as a potential therapy, HBOT may reduce tinnitus severity and improve auditory function through increased oxygen supply and improved blood flow.
  • Reference: van der Veen, Erwin L., Rob A. van Hulst, and J. Alexander de Ru. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in acute acoustic trauma: a rapid systematic review.” Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery 151.1 (2014): 42-45.

6. Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Recovery

  • HBOT could aid recovery by improving oxygen delivery to injured brain tissue and supporting neurological recovery.
  • Reference: Harch, Paul G., and Virginia McCullough. The Oxygen Revolution: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): The Definitive Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) & Other Disorders. Hatherleigh Press, 2016.

Used by the Elite

Athletes, including high-profile ones like LeBron James and Michael Phelps, have also used HBOT to enhance performance, recover faster from workouts, and reduce post-workout muscle soreness through improved oxygenation and reduced inflammation.

It’s important to highlight that off-label use of HBOT should be under the supervision of qualified healthcare professionals, considering the available evidence, potential risks, and benefits for each patient. Continuous research and clinical experience are expanding our understanding of HBOT’s effectiveness in these and other off-label applications

Further References:



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