Photo by Jane Sundried (Unsplash)

The therapy

HBOT is medical treatment that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber (ambient pressure higher than atmospheric pressure).


A brief story

  • 1662: British physician Nathaniel Henshaw builds a pressurized room to treat pulmonary and digestive conditions.
  • 1788: hyperbaric air in a diving bell is used for underwater repairs.
  • 1819: first deep-sea diving suit.
  • 1834: French doctor Junod builds the first hyperbaric tank to treat a variety of medical conditions.
  • 1900s: Frech doctors discover that patients with surgery in hyperbaric conditions recovered with fewer complictations.
  • 1907: JS Haldane designs decompression chamber to treat decompression sickness in divers.
  • 1918: Dr. Orville Cunningham discovers a difference in flu´s mortality rate among patients living at high altitude, leading to many patients to seek HBOT treatments.
  • 1963: JFK´s child, Patrick Bouvier, is treated from Respiratory Distress Syndrome in a HBOT chamber, although he dies aged 2 days.
Individual hyperbaric chamber

How does it work?

  • On wound healing: damaged blood vessels release fluids that cause swelling in the tissues, depriving them of oxygen. HBOT helps healing by providing tissues with plasma rich in oxygen. Additionally, it helps to remove the harmful free radicals.
  • On immune system: HBOT improves the ability of white blood cells to fight against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. It also blocks the action of many harmful bacteria.
  • On aging: telomeres are the end parts of the chromosomes and their shortening is linked to aging. Elongating theses telomeres is associated with a longer life, and although exercise and a healthy diet have been shown to have small effects on them, HBOT is said to reverse aging. Patients that received oxygen therapy sessions daily over 3 months showed longer telomeres and a smaller number of senescent cells than control individuals.
  • On sports recovery: HBOT induces the formation of new collagen fibres, present in muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, or skin, among others.


The chambers for HBOT can be monoplace, where the patient slips into the chamber, or multiplace, designed as a room where various persons simultaneously breath through masks.

Sessions, lasting up to 2 hours, should be provided only in healthcare or approved facilities, and is not recommended in people with ear problems, cold, fever or some lung diseases.

Although an expensive therapy, its use is becoming more common. Among the famous sportsmen using HBOT therapy we can find Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lebron James. But does HBOT also improve performance? Its effects are unclear yet.

Did you have any experience with hyperbaric oxygen therapy? We would like to read your comments.






John Scott Haldane: The father of oxygen therapy. Sekhar KC, Rao SC. Indian J Anaesth 2014; 58:350-2.

Multiplace hyperbaric chamber

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