Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Help your body heal wounds, fight infections and improve circulation with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at UC San Diego Health.

Rely on one of the largest and most sophisticated hyperbaric oxygen therapy systems in California. We operate the only hyperbaric chamber in the county that’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What's HBOT?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment used to treat wounds that won’t heal.

Body tissue needs sufficient oxygen to function properly. Tissue that is injured requires even more oxygen to heal. Many difficult-to-heal wounds are “hypoxic” or deprived of oxygen.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) accelerates the body's natural healing process by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood and delivering extra oxygen to damaged organs and tissue. HBOT enhances the effectiveness of treatment such as surgery, antibiotics, burn care, wound care and undersea and dive medicine.

During this noninvasive, painless therapy, you breathe 100 percent oxygen while lying inside a safe, sealed, pressurized environment, which can speed up healing and recovery time.

Safe, Effective Wound Healing

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is:

  • Cost-effective
  • Evidence-based
  • Lifesaving, vision- and limb-saving
  • Low-risk
  • Noninvasive
  • Well-tolerated

Will I Benefit From HBOT?

Your body may need extra oxygen if it’s not healing after four weeks of standard care. Your doctor may suggest hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat medical conditions, such as:

Our Facilities in San Diego County

Enjoy comfortable recliners when you have non-emergency HBOT care at our Encinitas clinic or Medical Offices North in Hillcrest, which is open 24/7. You may receive HBOT with other patients because the chambers are big enough to treat multiple patients simultaneously.

Rest assured, a certified hyperbaric technician or emergency medical technician will be with you inside the chamber at all times to ensure your safety and comfort.

Emergency Wound Care

Get emergency wound care in the Emergency Department at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. Emergency wound care includes treatment for conditions like:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Central retinal artery occlusion, when blood cannot get to the eye and may cause permanent loss of vision
  • Diving complications like gas embolism, when an air bubble gets stuck in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow
  • Failed skin grafts
  • Necrotizing injuries, also known as flesh-eating disease
  • Sudden or sensorineural hearing loss

Insurance Coverage for HBOT

Medicare and most private insurance plans usually cover HBOT. Ask the UC San Diego Health wound care team to help you understand your coverage.

View Insurance Plans We Accept

What to Expect During HBOT

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy occurs in a sealed, pressurized room, much like an airplane cabin. The treatment session lasts about 2 hours.

You breathe 100 percent oxygen (the air we breathe contains 21 percent oxygen) through a customized oxygen breathing hood placed over your head. The hood allows oxygen to dissolve immediately in your plasma, speeding the delivery of concentrated oxygen to heal hypoxic (diseased) tissue.

Rely on the UC San Diego Health hyperbaric medicine team to review relevant information with you before the session. A certified hyperbaric technician or emergency medical technician will be with you inside the chamber at all times.


Possible Side Effects

Complications are rare, as HBOT is a safe, supervised procedure. However, side effects from increased air pressure and hyperoxia (excess oxygen in body tissue) can arise occasionally. Talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of HBOT.

The most common side effect is middle ear barotrauma. This condition can cause discomfort and possible damage to the eardrum's central area. Before treatment, our hyperbaric technicians will show you techniques to equalize the air space between the sinuses and the middle ear (e.g., yawn and swallow).

Other possible side effects include:

  • Brief myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Claustrophobia
  • Ear injuries, like eardrum rupture or leaking fluid
  • Joint pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Organ damage
  • Oxygen toxicity
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

At-Risk Conditions for HBOT

Some conditions and symptoms may put your health at risk during hyperbaric treatment, such as:

  • Gas in the lung, like pneumothorax
  • High fever
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizure disorder
  • Severe cough