What is HBO Therapy? You may think it means sitting in front of the television to watch some of your favorite programs. While that may be the case for some, others are starting to discover the healing, restorative properties that HBO (HyperBaric Oxygen) Therapy has to offer.
The human body is a complex network that runs like a machine. Like most machines, our bodies require some routine maintenance. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy stimulates the body's natural healing processes to boost wound healing and promote cell growth.
With innovations in the Hyperbaric Therapy market, it's never been easier to find a hyperbaric chamber that meets your exact medical needs, preferences, and budget. This buying guide explores all hyperbaric chamber types, answers frequently asked questions, recommends the best chambers, and is packed full of information to help you make an informed purchase.
How Much Does a Hyperbaric Chamber Cost?
One of the first questions people want to know is how much is the price tag. While there is a wide price range, here is a basic breakdown of the costs of hyperbaric chambers.
Professional Hyperbaric Chambers
Give your business a boost with this luxurious piece of equipment. Whether you manage a hospital, chiropractor, spa and massage center, gym, senior living community, or wellness center, a professional hyperbaric chamber will give you an edge over your competitors. Professional models typically cost between $50,000 and $100,000. While a professional hyperbaric chamber is expensive, it’s an investment and will add significant, long-term value to your business.
Best Professional Hyperbaric Chamber: OxyLife 1
Home Hyperbaric Chambers
Even if you aren’t looking to buy a super expensive hyperbaric chamber, you can still get a chamber that meets your needs. Don’t worry about breaking the bank; chambers for home use range between $5,000 and $20,000. Adults and children alike can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy, so it’s a great tool to have in the convenience of your house. With a home hyperbaric chamber, you can stay in the comfort of your home and not take any time out of your busy schedule for oxygen therapy.
Best Home Hyperbaric Chamber: Grand Dive Pro
Portable Hyperbaric Chambers
A portable hyperbaric chamber can be used for professional or personal use. Maybe you are a doctor that travels to patients' homes; or you might be a residential user that often travels between your multiple homes; or possibly you’re an athlete that is often on the road for competitions. The average cost of a portable hyperbaric chamber is between $4,000 and $20,000, but in the right circumstance, it can be priceless.
Best Portable Hyperbaric Chamber: OxyNova 7
What Medical Conditions is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Used to Treat?
Like many other medical devices and medications, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has “approved uses” and “off-label uses”. The FDA has approved 13 conditions that hyperbaric chambers can effectively treat. Furthermore, there are numerous clinical trials of the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a plethora of conditions, including COVID-19.
FDA Approved Uses
- Air or gas embolism
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Clostridial myositis and myonecrosis (gas gangrene)
- Crush injury, compartment syndrome, and other acute traumatic ischemias
- Decompression sickness such as from scuba diving
- Enhanced wound healing for problematic illnesses such as diabetes
- Anemia (extreme loss of blood)
- Intracranial abscess
- Necrotizing soft tissue infections (necrotizing fasciitis)
- Refractory osteomyelitis (infection in the bone)
- Delayed radiation injury (soft tissue and bony necrosis)
- Compromised skin grafts and flaps
- Thermal burns
- Muscle soreness due to exercise
- Radiation sickness
- Wounds requiring extra stimulation for tissue growth
- Oily skin
- Vision loss due to blood supply obstruction in the eye
- Fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Hearing loss related to nerve damage
- Fungal infections
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
What are the Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
In order for bruises, cuts, breaks, and other more serious injuries to heal, your blood has to carry oxygen to the wound. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates vasculogenesis (the creation of new blood vessels), activates the cells that create collagen for skin’s structure and strength, reduces inflammation, and even destroys harmful bacteria that can invade a wound.
It works for curing both healing and non-healing wounds. Healing wounds, made up of regenerative tissue that heals just like your average scrape on the playground, are remedied faster with the supply of oxygen from a hyperbaric chamber. Non-healing wounds, also called chronic wounds, fail to heal in a timely manner or fail to heal in an anatomically correct position despite standard hospital interventions. These include diabetic ulcers, wounds from radiation poisoning, infectious wounds, and wounds from surgery. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy not only promotes healing but it can reduce the risk of requiring amputation in severe circumstances.
As we age, our bodies naturally begin breaking down. We experience physical symptoms of aging such as lower muscle levels and greater fat tissue buildup; it not only puts us at risk for injury, but limits independence and decreases our overall life satisfaction. As we get older, we also typically experience wrinkles, greater unwanted toxins and debris in our skin, and slowed healing. Mental symptoms, such as declining cognitive skills, is another challenge we face as we age.
Hyperbaric chambers combat these typical aging characteristics by establishing healthy blood circulation, repairing damaged skin cells, regenerating tissue, and fighting infections.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can slow, stop, and even reverse both the mental and physical aging processes. With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you have the chance to both look and feel younger!
LeBron James and Michael Phelps are among the many athletes who use hyperbaric therapy. Just as hyperbaric chambers allow aging adults to live at their best, they can help athletes perform at their best. Top athletes put their bodies through a lot of stress. Between rigorous workouts and the strain of an on-the-go lifestyle, athletes can benefit from the substantial support that hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides. In addition to greater physical performance, less post-workout muscle soreness, and a shorter recovery time, hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides mental clarity, reduces inflammation, and improves sleep. All of these benefits factor into athletic performance and allow professional athletes to better compete.
How Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work?
Hyperbaric chambers use two methods in order to move oxygen from the air around us into your body: increasing inspired oxygen concentration (i.e. the oxygen you breathe in) and increasing ambient pressure. In other words, the greater the oxygen concentration and room pressure, the more oxygen our body retains to power our bodily functions.
Naturally, the air we breathe is only 21% oxygen! The other 79% of ambient air around us is a mixture of gases, such as nitrogen; and those gases do not power our bodies in the same way oxygen does. For all home chambers and most hospital chambers, 100% concentrated oxygen is administered straight from an oxygen concentrator directly to the patient via a nasal cannula or face mask. While you are receiving 100% concentrated oxygen, fresh air circulates inside of the chamber, which prevents a build-up of our exhaled breath (e.g., carbon dioxide).
In rare occasions, hospitals use another method to administer oxygen to patients receiving HBOT. Rather than using a nasal cannula or face mask, hospitals might oxygenate the entire inside of the chamber. As most of us know, oxygen is highly flammable, so having an entire chamber filled with 100% concentrated oxygen poses numerous danger liabilities. In addition, there are many safety standards that a hospital must comply with if using this method. As a result, this method is rarely used due to multiple risk and safety hazards.Another drawback of using this method to administer oxygen is that it prevents the circulation of fresh air inside the chamber.
The air that surrounds us has weight and it presses everything it touches. Scientifically, the air pressure is called atmospheric pressure, and this pressure is commonly measured in a unit called Atmospheres Absolute (ATA).
In order to work, hyperbaric chambers must create a pressure inside the cabin that is greater than our atmospheric pressure. This means the pressure during hyperbaric oxygen therapy must be greater than the air we typically breathe, which is 1 ATA. Most hyperbaric chambers create between 1.35 to 2 ATA.
Increased air pressure helps increase the amount of oxygen your body absorbs. In order to use the oxygen we breathe, tiny sacs in our lungs must transfer it into the bloodstream. As the pressure increases, so does the ability to absorb it into our blood for use throughout our entire bodies!
Other than ATA, another unit of pressure is pounds per square inch (PSI). You have probably heard of PSI before reading this article! For example, many people refer to PSI when referring to their car’s tire pressure. ATA and PSI are both units of measurement that measure pressure; they are similar to how we use both feet and inches to measure length. Our atmospheric pressure is 1 ATA and 14.7 PSI.
The standard ATA for hyperbaric chambers is 1.3 ATA. However, someone that requires significant healing such as severe tissue injury, bone damage, or bacterial infection may want a chamber with a higher ATA. Please note that an ATA greater than 3 is not recommended.
Best Soft Hyperbaric Chamber with 1.4 ATA: OxyNova 5
Best Hard Hyperbaric Chamber with 2 ATA: OxyLife 1
What Are the Side Effects of Hyperbaric Treatment?
Most people benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It is considered very well-tolerated and safe. Negative outcomes are rare, however, it is still important to be aware of the risks just in case. Here is a list of side effects that some patients experience.
Common Side Effects
- Ear pain or popping
Severe Side Effects
- Lung damage
- Sinus damage
- Changes in vision
- Fluid buildup or rupture of the middle ear
- Oxygen poisoning
- Hypoglycemia (severely low blood sugar)
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
- Decompression sickness
How Do I Prepare for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Prior to receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy, it is extremely important that you eat a nutritious meal and drink lots of water. Treatment is likely to be more effective if you are hydrated prior to your appointment. It is also recommended that you avoid both nicotine and caffeine as they cause your blood vessels to narrow, reducing a hyperbaric chamber’s effectiveness. If your blood vessels are thinner, your body will not be able to absorb as much oxygen! A large part of the way hyperbaric oxygen therapy works is to increase oxygen absorption by your blood vessels and both nicotine and caffeine impede that. If you are unable to quit tobacco or caffeine use completely, avoid it for as long as possible before and after each treatment. Once your treatment is over, there are not any additional limitations to your activities nor diet.
Depending on the type of chamber, you might be lying down or sitting upright during treatment. It is recommended that you wear loose, cotton clothing to ensure comfortability. It is also recommended to bring something inside the chamber to pass the time, such as a book or puzzle.
In most home chambers, the chamber’s cabin is pressurized with room air and oxygen is administered via cannula or mask; therefore, concentrated oxygen does not build up inside the cabin and does not create a flammable environment. With these chambers, it is safe to use electronics, such as a smartphone or laptop while inside the chamber. Some manufacturers do caution the use of smartphones with broken screens or older mobile phones while inside a chamber.
On rare occasions, some hospitals might pressurize their hyperbaric chambers with 100% pure oxygen. This means the entire cabin is filled with concentrated oxygen and fresh air doesn’t circulate. If you are receiving treatment in one of these chambers, there is a long list of items that are prohibited due to flammability. Some of these items include all electronics (including smartphones), perfume, hairspray, oil-based and petroleum-based products, hearing aids, and more. If you are receiving hyperbaric treatment at a hospital, consult with your doctor regarding how to prepare and restrictions.
How Long is an Average Hyperbaric Chamber Session?
The duration of each treatment and the total recommended number of sessions vary based on the health condition you are treating and your overall goal for therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be as short as 3 minutes or last several hours, depending on the reason for treatment and pressure level used. For many conditions, doctors recommend daily therapy for 4-6 weeks.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy treating wound healing, for instance, typically consists of 90 minute sessions at approximately 35 ppi (or slightly below). The oxygen is delivered in 20-30 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks. During these breaks, the patient can open the chamber and drink water. Depending on the severity of the wound, typically between 20 and 40 sessions is recommended. On the other hand, divers with decompression sickness are typically treated for 5 to 8 hours and receive just 2-3 sessions. During hyperbaric oxygen therapy for decompression sickness, as time progresses in the treatment, the hyperbaric chamber is slowly depressurized to allow them to adjust to the pressure. For carbon monoxide poisoning, the treatment is usually around 90 minutes and requires approximately 3 sessions.
The recommendations listed are generalized, so for best use and safety please consult a doctor to determine the length and frequency of your sessions.
Is it Safe to Sleep in a Hyperbaric Chamber?
In a low ATA setting, you can stay inside a hyperbaric chamber for longer periods of time. As the pressure increases, the recommended therapy duration shortens. Some people decide to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy overnight, while sleeping. Athletes, in particular, commonly utilize this method. It is possible to do so safely as long as it is at a low pressure. Generally, sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber has no added health benefits when compared to shorter sessions at a higher pressure but may be more comfortable for the user. To determine more specific recommended treatment lengths, pressures, and frequencies, you should consult a doctor or other certified professional.
How Long Do the Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Last?
This is a difficult question because there isn’t a black-or-white answer. As you know by now, there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ hyperbaric treatment, therefore, outcomes vary for each user. It is important to note that the lasting effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy vary greatly based on the health condition you are treating and your goal for therapy. Additionally, most research supports use for healing, but many off-label uses are recognized as well.
Who is Not a Candidate for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
While hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be very beneficial, it is not for everyone. You shouldn’t receive treatment if you have the following:
- Recent dental work
- Lung disease including COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Collapsed lung
- Respiratory infection
- Cold or fever
- Recent ear trauma
- History of ear problems or surgery
Can Children Use Hyperbaric Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not limited to adults; it can be beneficial for children as well. If a child is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, is suffering from a non-healing wound, or facing another condition like those previously discussed, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be a fitting treatment. While research has been conducted about hyperbaric oxygen therapy’s effectiveness for developmental disorders such as Autism or Cerebral Palsy, hyperbaric therapy is not an FDA approved use for those disorders. We highly recommend speaking with a healthcare professional prior to treatment, especially when determining use for children, to ensure hyperbaric oxygen therapy will not only be beneficial, but safe.
When you are in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, the pressure causes your ears to pop and you may feel sinus pressure. Imagine a similar feeling to your ears popping while on an airplane. While it’s not a big deal to most adults, it can be scary for children. It is recommended that if you plan on your child using a hyperbaric chamber, that you should purchase a chamber that is large enough to fit at least 1 adult and 1 child. Having an adult inside the chamber will help ease and comfort the child during treatment.
Best Hyperbaric Chamber for Children: OxyNova 8
What are the Types of Hyperbaric Chambers?
There are several different kinds of hyperbaric chambers, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. In order to find a chamber that meets your needs, consider the differences between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers, as well as monoplace and multiplace chambers.
Hard Hyperbaric Chamber
Hard chambers are usually purchased by hospitals, clinics, and wellness centers. You may not have seen one in person yourself, but they've been featured on TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy! Hard chambers tend to be larger, which is ideal if medical professionals need to set bulky medical devices inside the chamber during treatment. Additionally, athletes prefer larger chambers because it allows them the space to work out and even set gym equipment inside the chamber.
As their name suggests, hard hyperbaric chambers are not flexible and they retain their shape whether they are inflated or deflated. Due to this, they are usually more comfortable to enter/exit.
Some users prefer hard chambers because they can reach a higher ATA. Hard chambers can reach up to 2+ ATA while soft chambers max out at 1.4 ATA. Keep in mind that just because a chamber can reach a higher ATA doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a better chamber. The ATA required for treatment is dependent upon each patient’s health condition and their goal for therapy.
Best Hard Hyperbaric Chamber: OxyLife 1
Soft Hyperbaric Chamber
Soft chambers are most often purchased for home-use, gyms, spas, traveling doctors, and other various businesses. Soft chambers are loved for their price point and portability! While some soft chambers are specifically designed for on-the-go use (i.e., easy break-down and includes a travel bag), all soft chambers can be portable.
Soft hyperbaric chambers are often referred to as ‘portable hyperbaric chambers’ and ‘mild hyperbaric chambers'. They get the nickname ‘mild hyperbaric chambers’ because they reach a maximum ATA of 1.4, whereas hard chambers can reach more than 2 ATA. Like stated before, a higher ATA does not equate to being the best chamber. In fact, 1.35 ATA is the standard hyperbaric pressure for most patients. The ATA needed is dependent upon each patient’s needs.
Soft hyperbaric chambers look like an inflatable bag, and they are held in place by metal or PVC rods. When you enter a deflated, soft chamber, it can feel a bit awkward at first. Imagine walking inside a camping tent that is only halfway set up. For some users, it can feel a bit claustrophobic until the chamber is inflated.
Best Soft Hyperbaric Chamber: Grand Dive
Soft Vertical Hyperbaric Chamber
A vertical chamber allows you to sit upright in a chair while receiving hyperbaric oxygen treatment. A vertical chamber is best for patients in wheelchairs or patients that need to remain upright while receiving treatment, due to a medical condition. All vertical chambers are soft.
What is the Difference Between a Monoplace and Multiplace Hyperbaric Chamber?
The terms monoplace and multiplace refer to the number of patients that can fit inside a chamber during treatment. In accordance with their names, monoplace hyperbaric chambers fit 1 patient, while multiplace hyperbaric chambers can accommodate multiple patients.
Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber
- Usually less expensive than multiplace chambers
- Offered in either hard and soft
- If the chamber is soft, then it’s probably portable
- Small space can trigger claustrophobia
- Cannot treat multiple patients simultaneously
Best Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber: Shallow Dive
Multiplace Hyperbaric Chamber
- Fits between 2-6 patients (depends on the chamber)
- Financially beneficial for hospitals who want to treat multiple patients simultaneously
- Spacious design can accommodate medical equipment inside the chamber
- Having another person inside the chamber while receiving treatment can ease anxiety or boredom
- If the patient requires a caregiver or medical staff, there is enough room
- Usually more expensive than monoplace chambers
- Usually are hard chambers, which are not portable
Best Multi-Person Hyperbaric Chamber for Professional Use: OxyLife C
Best Multi-Person Hyperbaric Chamber for Home Use: Grand Dive Pro
Are Hyperbaric Chambers Handicap Accessible?
Based on each users’ unique mobility capabilities, the perfect hyperbaric chamber may vary! Many hyperbaric oxygen chambers are built with mobility in mind and are specialized for specific medical conditions. Some chambers allow you to sit upright, boast roll-in stretchers, or are even wheelchair accessible. Comfort is key, so make sure you get what’s best for you!
Best Wheelchair Accessible Hyperbaric Chamber: Grand Dive Pro Plus
Best Hyperbaric Chamber with Stretcher: Revitalair 430F
Hyperbaric Chambers for PTSD & Military Veterans
There is growing evidence that PTSD is caused by traumatic events that alter the brain’s structure. The result is a “non-healing brain wound”, which can be seen using functional imaging. And while there are many therapies that focus on managing PTSD symptoms, currently there is not a cure for PTSD. In recent years, there have been clinical trials that study the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for PTSD. Although it’s not an FDA-approved treatment, many veterans claim HBOT helps their PTSD. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, however, is FDA approved to treat inflammation in the body, and many believe PTSD is a result of brain inflammation from trauma. As a matter of fact, some believe so strongly in hyperbaric therapy for PTSD that there is a pending Veterans National Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Act. Hyperbaric therapy could also be beneficial for people that might experience PTSD in their job, such as EMT, firefighters, police, etc. Lastly, in the spirit of transparency, there is some controversy on both sides of the discussion for using hyperbaric oxygen therapy for PTSD.
FDA Cleared Hyperbaric Chamber Brands
There are many brands of hyperbaric chambers on the market. Here are a few companies that are FDA cleared.
Summit to Sea
Mike Price, OT
Co-Founder of Rehabmart and an Occupational Therapist since 1993. Mike has spent his professional career working in multiple areas of Occupational Therapy, including pediatrics, geriatrics, hand therapy, ergonomics and inpatient / outpatient rehabilitation. Mike enjoys writing articles that help people solve complex therapeutic problems and make better product choices.
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