Since the late 1600s, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been used to treat a variety of illnesses and indications. As the years progressed, more and more applications of this oxygen treatment have been applied to patients, and additional applications are being discovered all the time. The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy have now expanded well beyond simply using it to treat decompression sickness (“the bends”), and research continues to show all the different ways that HBOT can help heal, save lives, and keep families together.

Let’s take a step back in time and dive in deeper to the history of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The Start of Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy began in 1662 when British physician Nathaniel Henshaw built the first pressurized room to treat pulmonary and digestive conditions. At this point, the use of oxygen therapy stalled until 1788 when they used compressed hyperbaric air in a diving bell for underwater repair. This spawned August Siebe to create the first deep sea diving suit it 1819. The first true hyperbaric tank arrived in 1834, under the direction of Dr. Junod. The Bulletin of the Academy of Medicine reported Dr. Junod’s success with a complete recovery from a variety of medical conditions.

Early HBOT Therapy Shows Promise

Early HBOT Therapy

In the 1900s, attention turned to oxygen therapy again. French doctors discovered that patients undergoing hyperbaric-assisted surgery recovered with fewer complications. Dr. John S. Haldane studied the effects of compressed oxygen and later developed the dive tables for the Royal Navy. Because of his research, people refer to him as the “Father of Oxygen Therapy.”

In 1918, Dr. Orville Cunningham discovered a difference in mortality rate between flu patients living in higher elevations compared to patients living at lower elevations. In higher elevations, you breathe in less oxygen. This discovery led to many flu patients seeking HBOT treatments, with great success.  In 1928, Dr. Cunningham created a 5-story chamber that offered more than 60 rooms designed to treat flu patients. In addition, Harvard Medical School built its first hyperbaric chamber in 1928.

‍Where HBOT Therapy is Today

Control panel of a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

As the use of HBOT continues, many physicians and researchers push forward and look at other conditions that HBOT may benefit. Studies show positive results with neurological conditions such as stroke and brain injuries. In many of these cases, HBOT treatment improves the conditions of patients, even with very poor prognoses. Studies into the treatment of conditions such as autism, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer are in the works.

Read more at National Hyperbaric