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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: What Are The Risks?

August 25th, 2013 by Deb Wilson

Oxygen Chamber

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is one of those hot topics making the rounds on the internet as the miracle cure/treatment for a variety of conditions such as cancer, autism and diabetes.  Consumers need to be aware, however, that HBOT has not been proven to be a clinically effective treatment option.

“Patients may incorrectly believe that these devices have been proven safe and effective for uses not cleared by FDA, which may cause them to delay or forgo proven medical therapies,” says Nayan Patel, a biomedical engineer in FDA’s Anesthesiology Devices Branch. “In doing so, they may experience a lack of improvement and/or worsening of their existing condition(s).”

Patients may be unaware that the safety and effectiveness of HBOT has not been established for these diseases and conditions, including:

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Brain Injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Depression
  • Heart Disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Migraine
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Sport’s Injury
  • Stroke

Thirteen uses of a hyperbaric chamber for HBOT have been cleared by FDA. They include treatment of air or gas embolism (dangerous “bubbles” in the bloodstream that obstruct circulation), carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness (often known by divers as “the bends”), and thermal burns (caused by heat or fire).

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Don’t Be Misled

First and foremost health care consumers should talk with their doctor about the potential risks of undergoing HBOT and whether HBOT is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the specific condition.  And as always, be aware that claims made on the internet should carefully vetted and researched using reliable sources.

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