hyperbaricEquine Hyperbaric Chamber

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves subjecting a patient to high levels of oxygen under pressure in a special chamber. At normal atmospheric pressure, there is a limit to the amount of oxygen carried by red blood cells and only a tiny amount of oxygen is dissolved in the plasma. HBOT is discussed in terms of atmospheres absolute (ATA). Atmospheric pressure at sea level is equal to one ATA. Higher pressure than this on the body would be similar to what a person experiences under water; every 33 feet (10 meters) of seawater results in an equivalent increase of one ATA of pressure. So, when you are 33 feet under water, you are experiencing two ATA (one from normal atmospheric pressure and one from the addition of 33 feet of sea water). This gives you an idea of the pressure you would feel inside an oxygen chamber. Treatments in a chamber are given at one-and-a-half to three times the pressure of one atmosphere.

equi2_sIncreasing the amount of air being breathed in doesn’t significantly improve oxygen delivery to the body by way of hemoglobin, even when breathingin pure oxygen. But with increased pressure, the oxygen level in blood plasma increases, with higher delivery to all body tissues. Under these conditions, oxygen is physically dissolved in the plasma, even in the veins (which ordinarily carry only blood that is depleted of oxygen). The body more readily utilizes this dissolved oxygen than the oxygen carried by red blood cells.

In humans, pressure chambers are used to speed healing of soft tissue injuries, aid the recovery of stroke victims, and in treating many other health issues –including carbon monoxide poisoning, coma, burns, circulatory problems, Lyme disease, lung abscesses, bone infections, hard-to-treat infections (especially those caused by anaerobic bacteria), traumatic brain injuries, spider bites resulting in necrotic (dead) tissue, and diabetes (preventing non-healing infections and amputations). Many studies show HBOT’s efficacy in treating wounds and ischemic tissue (that is deprived of blood), reducing edema, and stimulating the immune system.

Here’s how it works. The patient is put in a chamber and the air pressure is slowly increased. When it reaches the prescribed pressure, pure oxygen is put in to replace the air. Normal partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial system is about 100 mm (mmHg). The oxygen level in air inhaled at a pressure of three atmospheres (in a pressure chamber) would be near 2,280 mmHg. The actual amount in the arterial blood would be somewhat less than that, but it is a much higher amount than is normally dissolved in the blood, says Fairfield Bain, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVP, ACVECC, of Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Veterinary Associates in Lexington, Ky. The oxygen is forced into the blood and body fluids, making its way to any damaged areas of the body that can’t be reached by normal blood circulation or areas where vessels have been hindered by injury or infection.

The end results are tailored treatment programs that facilitate accelerated healing for all equine athletes whether suffering from general ailments or minor and major injuries.