Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - Hyperbaric Medicine
1) How does the treatment process begin?
HBO is a prescribed therapy. Your physician must refer you for evaluation by the hyperbaric physicians and nursing team. During this evaluation, the team will determine whether you are a good candidate and the treatment process will be explained to you. In order to approve you for treatment, you will be asked to provide the following documents:
- A physician referral /order to be seen at the GBMC Hyperbaric Medicine Center
- Photo identification
- Insurance card(s)
- List of medications
- List of medical providers
2) Who will be taking care of me during my treatment?
Throughout the course of your treatment, you will be cared for by physicians, nurses, and certified technologists who are specially trained in the administration of hyperbaric medicine.
3) What should I expect during my visit?
Prior to each treatment, you will change into a hospital gown. Vital signs and blood sugar (if applicable) will be checked and a physician evaluation will be conducted. You will be asked to lie down on a reclining bed and positioned comfortably inside of a see-through chamber where you will be able to communicate with the hyperbaric team.
During the treatment, you will feel the effect of pressure on your ears and possibly your sinuses. You will be instructed on techniques to relieve the pressure. You may notice a slight change in temperature and you may hear the air flowing through the chamber; similar to the noises that you hear on an airplane.
The hyperbaric team will monitor you throughout the course of your treatment to ensure that you are comfortable. Most treatments last approximately two hours during which time you can watch TV or videos or listen to music. Treatments may be shortened when necessary.
4) What are the possible side effects?
The most common side effects include the following:
- Trauma to the middle ear/sinus/lungs
- Temporary vision changes that should return to normal a few weeks after your therapy is completed
- Potential oxygen toxicity which may include self-limiting seizures or dizziness
- Temporary fatigue
- A drop in blood sugar, which is normally prevented by pre-screening before the treatment begins
- Possible claustrophobia which may be prevented with appropriate pre-medication
5) Will my insurance cover treatment?
Medicare and most other third-party payers recognize and pay for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Any financial issues will be discussed with you prior to starting treatment.
6) How often are treatments?
A patient's clinical indication normally dictates the number of treatments required and is based upon an evaluation conducted by the hyperbaric physician. Depending on the reason for treatment and your rate of healing, you may receive as few as 10 or as many as 100 treatments. Most treatment plans require that you are treated once a day, five days a week for approximately two hours per treatment. If you cannot comply with your treatment plan, the team may determine that the therapy is not effective and may discontinue your treatments.
7) What items are prohibited in the chamber?
For safety reasons, there are certain items not allowed inside the hyperbaric chamber. Please do not wear or bring the following into the chamber during your treatment:
- Hairspray/Hair oils
- Nail polish
- Alcohol or petroleum-based products
- Cell phones/Pager /Electronic devices
- Metallic items (such as jewelry, titanium eyeglass frames, keys, watches, coins)
- Flammable materials or heat-producing items (heating pads, lighters, cigarettes)
- Hearing aids
- Food, gum or candy
- Books, magazines, newspapers or any paper products
8) Can I take my contact lenses, glasses or other medical devices (such as pacemakers, etc.) into the chamber?
Make sure that you tell the hyperbaric team about any medical devices or items that you have on or in your body. The team will determine if the device is approved and can be safely pressurized in the chamber.
9) What if I am sick or on medication?
You should inform the staff at the Center if you have a cold or cough, the flu, sore throat, chills, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Alert the staff to any medications you are taking or changes in medication during the course of your treatment. Our staff will advise you on the appropriate use of decongestants, when necessary, to prevent discomfort or complications caused by pressure in your ears and sinuses.
10) What if I am diabetic?
If you are diabetic, please eat properly and continue to take your prescribed medication to control your blood sugar level. Your blood sugar level will also be tested before and after each treatment.
11) Can I drive to and from my HBO appointments?
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is usually administered on an outpatient basis. If you drive, you may drive yourself to the Center for treatment and should allow up to two and a half hours for each visit. If you have concerns about transportation to and from the Center, our staff may be able to assist you to obtain safe transport.
12) What if I have to go to the bathroom during my treatment?
If needed, our staff will provide you with a urinal and/or a bedpan. You can request that your treatment be ended early if necessary.
13) Are visitors allowed during my treatment?
For confidentiality reasons, your family and friends may not enter the treatment room with you. If you feel that you have special circumstances, please discuss your situation with a hyperbaric team member. Otherwise, your family and friends can wait for you in a designated area just outside of the treatment room.