The definitive layperson's book on the subject is Dr. Richard A. Neubauer and Morton Walker 's book, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.[1] Neubauer and Walker explain that HBOT is "a 300-year-old treatment modality"[2] that is in far more common medical use in other countries than in the US.[3]

hbotIn this treatment, a pressurized chamber forces higher than normal levels of oxygen into the tissues and plasma of the body. Essentially, "HBOT is a method of restoring wellness [which] can reverse pathological states in which the fact that too little oxygen is reaching the cells (hypoxia) is a component."[4] In other words, since many disease states are caused by a shortage of oxygen to the cells, HBOT can greatly benefit people who suffer from such conditions.

There are several different ways in which HBOT creates benefits for the body. First, it causes hyperoxygenation or an increase in oxygen in the body's fluids and tissues. According to one study, it "increases the amount of oxygen dissolved in plasma by 10 to 15 times, doubles or triples the oxygen diffusion distance and results in elevated tissue oxygenation, which lasts for two to four hours after the hyperbaric oxygen treatment."[5] It also causes, vasoconstriction, or a narrowing of blood vessels.  This can reduce or eliminate a migraine and decrease swelling in swollen areas of the body.  In addition, it has antimicrobial or germ-killing, effects. And finally, it enhances neovascularization, or the formation of new blood vessels.[6]


Neubauer and Walker point out that HBOT is widely accepted by American doctors in the treatment of " wound healing, bone infection, carbon monoxide intoxication, and air bubbles in the bloodstream to due to decompression sickness, open heart surgery, and other sources."  But, unlike their European colleagues, they have yet to recognize its value in treating "conditions such as coma resulting from head injuries, bruising of the spinal cord, stroke, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis."[7] However, an increasing number are doing so.

For example, Dr. Wise Young of the W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers University, says that HBOT " therapy clearly has many applications and beneficial effects for a number of medical conditions." In 1990, the prestigious The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study concluding that, "Overall, HBO therapy is safe and effective for certain conditions, and well-formulated clinical trials could help extend its use to others."[8]  Wounds, broken bones, and infections of all sorts have responded favorably to HBOT, and its proponents continue to document and promote these uses.

HBOT is a long-established, medically supported therapy that is currently expanding in exciting new ways. Two of the most promising uses are for personal fitness and the treatment of brain function impairment. Let us look at each of these in turn.


World-renowned athlete Mark Allen calls HBOT "one of the most significant elements of his training program, which helped him to win his Sixth Hawaii Ironman Triathlon."[9] The US Olympic Committee conducted a pilot study on HBOT for female runners, which concluded that HBOT allowed the athletes to run longer than they could before treatment. Perhaps the most sought-after trainer of elite athletes in the country, Dr. Phil Maffetone, asserts that his own clinical research "has indicated that high pressure environments without added oxygen have the therapeutic effect of improving health and fitness through increased oxygen uptake."[10]

runMaffetone uses HBOT regularly with his clients, such celebrities as Mario Andretti and Mike Pigg. He theorizes that "the improvements, "...are related not only to a higher oxygen uptake, but decreased lactic acid production as well."[11]

You don't need to be a world-class athlete to benefit from HBOT's fitness-enhancing effects. Shorter recovery time after exercise, greater oxygen uptake, better sleep, more energy, and greater fat-burning capacity are just some of the possible fitness benefits that await you in the chamber.


Regarding the mental effects of HBOT, Maffetone has this to say: "There is a relationship between lactic acid levels and depression, anxiety, and phobias. A significant number of people using the hyperbaric chamber have reported psychological benefits. Some of this subjective information may be placebo effects, but the relationship between high-pressure environments and mental states is clear. High-pressure weather systems are typically accompanied by a feeling of well being. That's why you feel happier and more energetic on sunny, blue-sky days, as opposed to the cloudy, low pressure days when many people are sluggish both mentally and physically."[12]

It is not just enhanced mood and psychological function that HBOT can offer, but help for those with actual impairment of brain function. One of the pioneers in this field of research is Dr. Gunnar Heuser, who specializes in the treatment of brain damage caused by exposure to toxins or chemicals that injure brain tissue. He obtains research data from the subjective reports of his patients and their families, and from the objective images of a SPECT scan.

SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography, a type of medical scan that illustrates the blood flow into all areas of the brain. Heuser's patients have low blood flow and low oxygen content in large areas of the brain, leading to many kinds of cognitive, motor, and emotional dysfunction.

Heuser published a study documenting the results of a series of hyperbaric treatments on 9 patients suffering from Impaired Brain Function. The study concludes that, "Every one of the patients who participated in the study showed improvement after only 10 treatments. Reporting fewer problems with short-term memory, balance, headaches, and other symptoms of poor circulation in the brain. The SPECT scans objectively confirmed an increase in blood flow and oxygen to affected areas of the brain such as the temporal lobe, the part of the brain where short term memory is located."[13] 

At the 2001 Symposium for the Brain Injured Child, Heuser gave a presentation entitled, "HBOT for Adults and Children with Toxic Encephalopathy." Toxic encephalopathy means impairment of thinking and memory following exposure to solvents, pesticides, or other toxins that affect that nervous system. The subjects of this study suffered from such conditions as cerebral palsy and autism. Heuser prescribed mild HBOT for one hour a day for 10 days.

mindA typical example is a 4-year-old named Sammy, who had suffered from mild autism for approximately 2-1/2 years. After HBOT, the medical observations were as follows: "more contact, better vocabulary and speech, more affectionate, better sleep." Confirming these observations with a SPECT, Heuser concludes that, "SPECT, and an number of memory and cognitive functions show significant improvement after only ten treatments with MILD HBO."

Dr. H. Wassman, who treats patients with impaired brain function due to accidents, reports that "99 head injured patients were treated with the same intensive measures and every second patient received hyperbaric oxygenation in addition. At the conclusion of treatment, complete recovery occurred in only 6% of Group A, but in 33% of Group B." These impressive results prompted him to conclude, that, "Especially in the younger patients (1-30 years) the use of hyperbaric oxygenation greatly improved the prognosis, so that its use with these patients should be especially required."[14]

Finally F.J. Cronje et al state in a position paper regarding treatment of cerebral palsy, that the findings of a study that involved 111 children with cerebral palsy show, that the use of HBO (Classical high pressure, high oxygen Chambers) provided no additional benefit to slightly pressurized room air (= Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers). It also confirmed, that there is also the possibility of rather using 28% normobaric oxygen supplementation, which is more readily available, less expensive and less hazardous to administer than hyperbaric air.[15]

The mild hyperbaric oxygen chambers in our office administer about 28% of oxygen by slightly raised pressure (about 1.32 Ata = approx. 10 feet of water depth). This means that Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers operate in non-critical ranges of pressure and oxygen content and therefore don’t carry the risks of Hyperbaric Oxygen Tanks in regards to Oxygen poisoning, while still providing the same chances of success.


Increasing numbers of studies and anecdotal evidence from clinical use of HBOT show that it can have a beneficial effect on a wide range of mental and psychological conditions. Insomnia, anxiety, depression, and phobias often diminish with use of HBOT, and even severe medical conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy are helped by it.

Furthermore, it can increase fitness and athletic performance, in addition to treating the wide variety of conditions discussed in previous newsletters. And as Neubauer and Walker point out, "Research on hyperbaric oxygen has proven conclusively that relatively low-level deliveries of oxygen to a patient has no ill effects."[16]


[1] Dr. Richard A. Neubauer and Morton Walker DPM, "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy".  c. 1998  by RAN and MW, Avery, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

[2] ix

[3] xi

[4] x

[7] xv

[8] "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy" in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) April 25, 1990 v263 n16 p2216(5), by Grim, Pamela S.; Gottlieb, Lawrence J.; Boddie, Allyn; Batson, Eric

[9] Triathlon Times, Vol XIV Issue 10: "Mark Allen Endorses the Hyperbaric Chamber."

[10] Future Trends: Hyperbaric Chambers, Ch. 32 "178-9, Maffetone

[11] 181

[12] Maffetone 181

[13] [no c. on leaflet] Clinical Study: Mild Hyperbarics for Impaired Brain Function

[14] "Revisitation of Hyperbaric Oxygenation in Mid Brain Trauma," by H. Wassman, M.D. []


[15] “The Use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in the Treatment of Children with Cerebral Palsy: A Position Paper”, by F.J. Cronje, S.C. van Bever Donker, F. Burman, A.J. Taite, L.V. Fitzpatrick

[16] Neubauer x