The History of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: From Its Origins to Modern Practice

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has a fascinating history that spans centuries, evolving from simple air pressure experiments to a sophisticated medical treatment used across various fields, including physiotherapy and neurology. At Revivo, we recognize the importance of understanding the roots and development of the treatments we offer, as it helps us appreciate the scientific advancements that contribute to our current practices. This post traces the history of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy from its origins to its modern applications, highlighting key milestones along the way.

Early Beginnings

The concept of using increased atmospheric pressure for medicinal purposes dates back to the 1600s. One of the earliest recorded attempts was by a British clergyman, Henshaw, who in 1662 built a chamber called the “Domicilium.” He believed that varying air pressure could treat acute and chronic conditions, although his understanding of oxygen’s role was not yet established.

The 19th Century: Pneumatic Institutes

The 19th century saw the establishment of “pneumatic institutes” dedicated to treating patients with respiratory diseases through the inhalation of compressed air. While these efforts were still focused on air rather than pure oxygen, they laid the groundwork for understanding the physiological effects of pressure.

The 20th Century: Emergence of Modern HBOT

The modern era of HBOT began in the early 20th century with the development of pressurized chambers capable of delivering 100% oxygen at pressures greater than atmospheric levels. The first notable medical use of hyperbaric oxygen was in the 1930s when Orville Cunningham, an American physician, successfully treated a patient with decompression sickness, also known as “the bends,” a condition affecting divers.

During the mid-20th century, HBOT found new applications beyond decompression sickness. It was used to enhance healing in a range of conditions, from carbon monoxide poisoning to wound healing, thanks to its ability to increase oxygen saturation in the blood and tissues.

HBOT Today: Diverse Applications and Research

Today, HBOT is recognized for its broad therapeutic potential, including applications in physiotherapy and neurology. Modern hyperbaric chambers are sophisticated devices that can precisely control the environment, ensuring safe and effective treatment. Research into HBOT continues to uncover new applications and mechanisms of action, such as its ability to promote neuroplasticity, reduce inflammation, and enhance stem cell proliferation.

The use of HBOT has expanded to include treatment for stroke recovery, traumatic brain injuries, diabetic ulcers, and certain types of infections. It’s also being explored for potential benefits in conditions like multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and sports injuries, reflecting the therapy’s growing role in modern medicine.


The history of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a testament to human curiosity and the pursuit of healing. From the rudimentary experiments of the 1600s to the advanced medical treatment it has become today, HBOT’s journey reflects the broader evolution of medical science. At Revivo, we are proud to offer HBOT as part of our multidisciplinary approach to care, grounded in a deep appreciation for the history and science behind this transformative therapy. As we continue to explore and apply the latest advancements in treatments like HBOT, we remain committed to enhancing the health and well-being of our patients through evidence-based, innovative care.

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