Portable hyperbaric chambers are used in the treatment of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This therapy is used to treat specific medical conditions by administering oxygen at pressures greater than normal to a patient. Whereas previously hyperbaric oxygen therapy was the primary treatment for disorders such as poisoning from carbon monoxide and gas gangrene, it is now being used more widely in standard medical and surgical care. Problem wounds, chronic bone infections and radiation injury have also been effectively treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
In order to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the patient must enter a specially designed chamber in which the pressure is increased and which is filled with 100% oxygen. The condition being treated determines how much the pressure is increased and the length of time the patient stays under the increased pressure. The pressures for treatment are typically two to three times that of the atmospheric pressure which is 14.7 psi and treatments usually are one to two hours in length at full pressure.
Portable hyperbaric chambers are primarily used for treatments at home. They typically have soft sides and use lower pressures and so are frequently called “mild hyperbaric chambers”. The highest pressures which are attained in portable hyperbaric chambers that are commercially available in the United States are 4.1 psi which is equivalent to being under water at a depth of 11 feet. Either oxygen concentrators or 100% oxygen is used as the breathing gas. Semi-Portable Hyperbaric Chambers are similar to portable chambers, although they typically are heavier units and meant to not be moved around as much. The benefit to semi-portable chambers are easier in and out access.
The initial use for portable hyperbaric chambers was to treat altitude sickness. They have more recently been found effective for a variety of other medical conditions such as Lyme disease, autism, stroke, cancer, cerebral palsy, cardiac conditions, multiple sclerosis, injuries to the brain and other immunodeficiency disorders. They are frequently taken on trekking expeditions in the high mountains in order to treat the effects of high altitude sickness. The lower pressures of portable hyperbaric chambers when used over a period of six months are more effective for many medical conditions as the lower pressures tend to modulate the immune system whereas the higher pressures can suppress the immune system over time.
Home-Use Hyperbaric Chambers are meant to be used without supervision of a physician, and typically have minimal controls. These units are designed with simplicity in mind, and are the popular choice among athletes.
One type of the portable hyperbaric chambers is known as a Hyper-Oxy chamber. Its maximum pressure is 4 psi and is larger than many other portable chambers. It is seven feet in length and has a diameter of 32 inches so this chamber can be placed on its end. This makes it possible for patients to sit in the chamber rather than lie down. It is used for a variety of treatments that include headache relief and high altitude sickness. This chamber is very popular with health spas.
Another type of the portable hyperbaric chambers is the Gamo Mountain Bag. Named for the man who designed and patented it in 1989, Dr. Igor Gamow, this portable chamber has a maximum pressure of 2 psi and is used for treating severe cases of altitude sickness. Its primary use is in Nepal where it has become standard emergency equipment for all mountain hiking expeditions.