Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that can be traced back to the 1600’s. In 1662, the first renowned chamber was built and operated by a British clergyman named Henshaw. He erected a structure titled, the Domicilium, that was used to treat a variety of conditions. In 1878, Paul Bert, a French physiologist, discovered the link between decompression sickness and nitrogen bubbles. Bert later identified that the pain could be ameliorated with recompression. The concept of treating patients under pressurized conditions was continued by the French surgeon Fontaine, who later built a pressurized mobile operating room in 1879. Fontaine found that inhaled nitrous oxide had a greater potency under pressure, in addition to his patients having improved oxygenation.
In the early 1900’s Dr. Orville Cunningham, a professor of anesthesia, observed that people with particular heart diseases improved better when they lived closer to sea level than those living at higher altitudes. He treated a colleague who was suffering from influenza and was near death due to lung restriction. His resounding success led him to develop what was known as the “Steel Ball Hospital” located along the shore of Lake Erie. The six story structure was erected in 1928 and was 64 feet in diameter. The hospital could reach 3 atmospheres absolute. Unfortunately, due to the depressed financial status of the economy, it was deconstructed during in 1942 for scrap.
Subsequently, hyperbaric chambers were later developed by the military in the 1940’s to treat deep-sea divers who suffered from decompression sickness. In the 1950’s, physicians first employed HBOT during heart and lung surgery, which led to its use for carbon monoxide poisoning in the 1960’s. Since then, over 10,000 clinical trials and case studies have been completed for numerous other health-related applications with the vast majority of results reporting resounding success.