Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – Side effects and Contraindications

Side Effects

Hyperbaric Treatment is a very safe procedure. But as is the case with any treatments one needs to be aware of the side effects, however minimal. The most common side effects of Hyperbaric Treatment are Middle EarBarotrauma (pain in middle ear),SinusSqueeze(occurs in patients with upper respiratory tract infections or allergic rhinitis),Claustrophobia (some degree of confinement anxiety), Hypoglycemia (especially in diabetics), Eye Problems(chances of a cataract developing in patients with extremely prolonged series of hyperbaric oxygen therapies), Oxygen toxicity (causes seizures due to effect on Central Nervous System(CNS) and pulmonary effects).


Hyperbaric therapy should be avoided in certain conditions as it may lead to unwanted effects.

Asthma (small airway hyper-reactivity may result in air trapping and damage to the lungs on ascent. There is some evidence that the administration of some bronchodilators may increase the incidence of gas embolism to the brain through pulmonary vasodilation), Congenital spherocytosis (condition in which the person has fragile red blood cells,treatment may result in massive hemolysis), Emphysema with CO2 retention (patients with emphysema may have difficulty breathing in the chamber and require emergency care. In addition, gas trapping and subsequent lung rupture can occur), High Fever(more than 38.5degC tend to lower the seizure threshold due to O2 toxicity and may result in the delay of relatively routine therapy), Optic Neuritis(There have been rare reports in patients with a history of optic neuritis of failing sight and even blindness after HBO therapy), Pneumothorax (A pocket of trapped gas in the pleura will decrease in volume on compression and re-expand on surfacing during a cycle of HBO therapy. These changes may result in further lung damage and or arterial gas embolization), Upper Respiratory Tract Infections(relative contra-indications due to the difficulty such patients may have in clearing their ears and sinuses)andViral Infections (Many workers in the past have expressed concern that viral infections may be considerably worsened after HBOT. Others believe that HBOT can be helpful in eliminating viral infections).

Hyperbaric Treatment may also cause some reactions with some drugs like Cisplatinum (some evidence that this drug retards wound healing when combined with HBO), Disulphiram (Antabuse) (evidence suggests that this drug blocks the production of superoxide dismutase. This may severely affect the body’s ability to neutralize oxygen free radicals) andDoxorubicin(Adriamycin) (this chemotherapeutic agent becomes increasingly toxic under pressure. Animal studies suggest at least a one-week break between last dose and first treatment of HBOT)


"Love it! "This is the kind of educational tool needed for hyperbaric, covers the entire process in a systematic fashion that can only improve your skill set"! "

- Tim Mayhugh LPN, CHT, CHWS

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