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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Part 1: history and principles


  • The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to
Dr. Melissa L. Edwards, Allegheny Veterinary Emergency Trauma and Specialty, 4224 Northern Pike, Monroeville, PA 15146, USA.


Objective – Review the historical development and physiologic principles of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) based on human and veterinary experimental literature and current equipment in use.

Data Sources – Review of basic physiologic concepts. Data from human and veterinary journals were reviewed through Pubmed and Veterinary Information Network database searches as well as reference searches on several articles covering hyperbaric therapy in clinically applicable situations.

Human Data Synthesis – HBOT has been gaining acceptance as an adjunctive treatment in human medicine. The understanding of the physiology and application of hyperbaric therapy is increasing through ongoing research and greater access to hyperbaric equipment.

Veterinary Data Synthesis – Several animal models have been utilized to examine the effects of HBOT. Most models utilize dogs and rats but pigs, cats, and other species have been studied.

Conclusions – Hyperbaric therapy utilizes several physiologic principles of how gases respond under pressure and more specifically of how oxygen responds under pressure. The increase in concentration of oxygen in solution, based on its solubility under pressure, increases the diffusion gradient for its delivery deeper into tissues, which is the premise of HBOT. Ultimately the increases in dissolved oxygen generated by hyperbaric therapy have several physiologic effects that can alter tissue responses to disease and injury. As this technology becomes more available to clinical practice, HBOT should be considered as a therapeutic option.

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