Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Risks

Although complications with hyperbaric oxygen therapy are rare, especially when under proper supervision, there is always the existence of a risk with any medical procedure. Therefore, it is important to be aware of all of the following potential side effects prior to undergoing any treatment:

  • Otic Barotrauma: This pain in the ears or sinuses is the most common side effect. If unable to equalize the ears or sinuses, the pressurization will be slowed or halted in order to remedy the situation.
  • Serous Otitis: The accumulation of fluid in the ears may take place as a result of breathing high oxygen concentrations. This disappears at the end of the treatment and may be alleviated with decongestants.
  • Barotrauma: Organ damage caused by air pressure changes is an extremely rare side effect.
  • Oxygen Toxicity: Too much oxygen in your central nervous system could result in dangerous consequences such as seizures. This risk is less than one in 10,000 treatments.
  • Visual Changes: Some patients, especially those over 40 years old, may experience blurring or myopia (near-sightedness) and presbyopia after 20 or more treatments. These vision changes are usually temporary.
  • Maturing or Ripening Cataracts: Individuals with cataracts have occasionally had a maturing or ripening of this pre-existing condition.
  • Cerebral Air Embolism and Pneumothorax: The possibility of rupturing the lungs with escape of air into the arteries or the chest cavity is present due to the rapid increase in pressure. This can only occur if the normal passage of air out of the lungs is blocked during decompression. Slow decompressions are used in HBOT to prevent this possibility. It is also important for patients to breathe normally during treatment and not hold their breath.
  • Middle ear and inner ear injuries: Increased air pressure may cause ear injuries such as leaking fluid and eardrum rupture.
  • Fatigue: Some people report fatigue following hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but this is an inconsistent, subjective finding.
  • Risk of Fire: The use of oxygen in any form presents an increased risk of fire, so patients must follow all precautions at HBOT facilities.