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Recompression Treatment

Overview :

Recompression treatment is performed in a hyperbaric chamber, a sealed compartment in which the patient breathes normal air or "enhanced" air with up to 100% oxygen while exposed to controlled pressures up to three times normal atmospheric pressure. The patient may receive the oxygen through a face mask, a hood or tent around the head, or an endotracheal tube down the windpipe if the patient is already on a ventilator. When used to treat decompression sickness or gas embolism, the increased pressure reduces the size of gas bubbles in the patient's body. The increased oxygen concentration speeds the diffusion of the nitrogen within the bubbles out of the patient's body. As gas bubbles deflate, the trauma of gas embolism and decompression sickness begins to resolve. Treatment for diving emergencies typically involves one session, lasting four to six hours, at three atmospheres of pressure.

When used to treat other conditions, the increased pressure allows oxygen and other gases to dissolve more rapidly into the blood and thus be carried to oxygen-starved tissues to enhance healing. Elevated oxygen levels can also purge toxins such as carbon monoxide from the body. In addition, when body tissues are super-saturated with oxygen, the destruction of some bacteria is enhanced and the spread of certain toxins is halted. This makes hyperbaric oxygen therapy useful in treating gas gangrene and infections that cause tissue necrosis (death). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also promotes the growth of new blood vessels.

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