Learn more about oxygen therapy for wounds.

Updated Oct. 14, 2020

Did you know your wounds need sufficient amounts of oxygen to heal properly? If you have a nonhealing wound, your doctor may recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help get the oxygen you need to heal damaged tissue.

Learn more about HBO therapy and find a treatment facility nearest you by visiting the UPMC Wound Healing Services website or calling toll free 844-639-4712.

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What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Nonhealing Wounds?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for wound healing is a safe, non-invasive treatment that uses 100 percent oxygen delivered at higher than normal atmospheric pressure to help get more oxygen to the body’s tissues and accelerate the healing process.

“The idea is that most wounds have an ischemic nature, and the ischemic nature means there’s not enough oxygen to the tissues themselves,” says Marc Mancinelli, DO, medical director, Wound Healing, UPMC Hamot.

“With hyperbaric oxygen, we can apply a supernormal level of oxygen not only to your red blood cells but to your plasma, and this in turn will help wound healing.”

Specialized clear acrylic chambers offer an open feel and can accommodate patients of all mobility and sizes. These chambers are designed for your comfort and include televisions for watching your favorite shows or movies and also allow you to enjoy your favorite music.

HBO is effectively used to treat a variety of non-healing wounds. Sessions may last between two and two and a half hours and may be prescribed daily for 20 or more treatments (five days a week).

Many people are familiar with HBO as a treatment for divers. Decompression sickness, which often occurs among deep sea divers, is one of the most common conditions treated and has been for over 80 years.

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Benefits of HBOT

There are many benefits to receiving HBO therapy. Breathing 100 percent oxygen combined with increased atmospheric pressure allows the bloodstream to carry more oxygen throughout the entire body. HBOT also encourages the growth of new blood vessels in ischemic tissues, which are tissues that may not be getting enough oxygen to heal properly.

Typically, your red blood cells carry 21 percent oxygen, meeting normal tissue demands. However, when you undergo HBOT, the plasma that carries your red blood cells in the vessels becomes capable of transporting 100 percent oxygen, helping to create new vessels in areas that need it most. In addition, HBOT helps to reduce infections by killing anaerobic bacteria, and also helps to reduce tissue swelling (edema).

To receive the greatest benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a nonhealing wound, you’ll need multiple sessions. The exact number depends on the type of wound or condition you have, as well as your individual response to treatment.

You may experience pressure in your ears during a session, but just like being in an airplane, you can yawn or swallow multiple times to help ease that pressure. A trained technician and supervising provider will be available throughout your daily treatments to answer questions and ensure your safety.

Who Is a Candidate for HBOT?

A variety of conditions and types of wounds can benefit from HBO therapy and are covered by most insurance, including:

  • Compromised skin grafts/skin flaps
  • Infections, such as Chronic Osteomyelitis and Actinomycosis
  • Delayed Radiation Injury
    • Bony radiation injury, such as Osteoradionecrosis, which mainly affects the jaw bone in head and neck cancer patients
    • Soft tissue radiation wounds, where external tissue or internal organs are affected, such as the bladder (cystitis) or prostate (proctitis)
  • Severe, nonhealing diabetic foot wounds

“Hyperbaric treatments can last from one hour to several hours, and this can be completed in one day to several weeks,” Dr. Mancinelli says. “However, we individualize the treatment program to each ailment that the patient possesses.”

Learn more about HBO therapy and find a treatment facility nearest you by visiting the UPMC Wound Healing Services website or calling toll free 844-639-4712.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.