A brief history of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
The use of high levels of oxygen under pressure is nothing new. The first documented use of hyperbaric therapy occurred in 1662 when a British physician created an airtight chamber, called a 'domicilium', in which the atmosphere could be compressed and decompressed using oxygen bellows and valves. It’s tough to tell if these patients treated in the dimicillium improved but it’s interesting to not that this technology was being utilized BEFORE the discover of oxygen!
We now commonly use HBOT to treat many conditions such as non-healing wounds, radiation tissue injury, carbon monoxide poisoning and certain injections because we know that when the body is exposed to elevated pressure, more oxygen can be dissolved into the blood, on red blood cells, but also into the plasma which does not usually carry high levels of oxgyen. This increased level of oxygen has an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial effect. It helps to reduce swelling (edema) and stimulates production of white blood cells, helping the body’s immune system to function better. It also stimulates the growth of new blood vessels which can bring blood (and oxygen) to tissues that may have been struggling.
Believe it or not, Hyperbaric Medicine is nothing new.
When people ask “what kind of nursing do you do?” and I respond that I work in Hyperbaric medicine, most replies are something like “wow, that sounds high-tech!” or a blank expression followed by “what is that?” The funny thing is that Hyperbaric Medicine is actually very LOW-tech and has been around for centuries, we just don’t hear much about it mainstream medicine and everyday life.
Some historical events the development of the field of Hyeprbaric Medicine:
Junod built a chamber in France in 1834 to treat pulmonary conditions at pressures between 2 and 4 atmospheres absolute.
During the following century “pneumatic centres” were established in Europe and the USA which used hyperbaric air to treat a variety of conditions.
Dr. J. Leonard Corning built the first hyperbaric chamber in the United States in New York in 1891.
Orval Cunningham, a professor of anesthesia at the University of Kansas in the early 1900s observed that people suffering from circulatory disorders did better at sea level than at altitude and this formed the basis for his use of hyperbaric air. In 1918 he successfully treated patients suffering from the Spanish flu with hyperbaric air.
In 1937, when Behnke and Shaw first used high-pressure oxygen in the treatment of decompression sickness
In 1955 and 1956 Churchill-Davidson, in the UK, used hyperbaric oxygen to enhance the radiosensitivity of tumors
Ite Boerema successfully used it in cardiac surgery.
In 1961 Willem Hendrik Brummelkamp published on the use of hyperbaric oxygen in the treatment of clostridial gas gangrene
In 1962 Smith and Sharp reported successful treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning with hyperbaric oxygen.
Clarke, D. (2008). History of Hyperbaric Therapy. In T. S. Neuman & S. R. Thom (Eds.), Physiology and Medicine of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (1st ed., pp. 3-23). Philadelphia: Saunders. Retrieved from ClinicalKey.
Jain, K. K. (2009). Textbook of hyperbaric medicine. Cambridge, Mass.: Hogrefe and Huber.
Moon, R. E., & Camporesi, E. M. (1999). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. Respir Care Clin N Am, 5(1), 1-5.