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Frequently Asked Questions

Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is a safe, painless, proven way to help the body heal difficult, non-healing wounds.

What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen, inside a pressurized chamber, at a pressure about two and half times greater than the normal atmospheric pressure. The therapy quickly delivers high concentrations of oxygen to your bloodstream which helps increase the body's own natural wound-healing abilities. The high blood oxygen level allows red blood cells to pass more easily into wounds and burns, essentially healing them from the inside out. HBO also helps fight certain types of infections, improves circulation and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. Therapy is administered daily and the number of treatments is individualized for every patient's diagnosis.

What is an HBO session like?

HBO sessions last about two hours in chambers that resemble a reclining bed encased in a roomy acrylic shell. The chamber has clear sides through which the patient can see their surroundings. Each chamber is equipped with a television for viewing videos and DVDs. Patients can nap, listen to music, or watch television or movies while remaining in constant contact with those outside the chamber through an intercom and private handset. Most patients report that the only sensation they feel is a slight pressure on the eardrum, similar to when a plane lands.

How do I know if I’m a candidate for HBO therapy?

If you suffer from a chronic or non-healing wound, ask your physician about the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program at Saint Francis, or contact us directly for an assessment. Certain non-healing wounds such as venous wounds, radiation-induced wounds, and compromised skin grafts, to name a few, may qualify for advanced HBO therapy.

How do I obtain a consultation with the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program?

A physician referral is not required. You can call us directly at (415) 353-6700 to schedule a consultation appointment.

What do I wear when I am in the chamber?

You will only be wearing a 100% cotton hospital gown. You will be asked to remove all of your clothing, jewelry, hearing aids, dentures or bridges, contact lenses, wigs or hairpieces, and medication patches.Please do not wear any of the following items. Alert the hyperbaric oxygen therapy technician if you are wearing any of these items.

  • Cologne
  • Deodorant
  • Hairspray or hair products
  • Make up
  • Nail polish less than 24 hours old
  • Skin lotions or creams
  • Sunscreen

What causes non-healing wounds?

Non-healing wounds can result for a number of reasons, including diabetes, poor circulation, trauma, vascular disease, and immobility (which can lead to pressure ulcers, commonly known as "bed sores"). An estimated 8 million Americans suffer from chronic non-healing wounds annually.

How will my doctor(s) stay informed on my progress?

The hyperbaric oxygen therapy medical team works with your physician or medical specialist during your course of treatment and keeps them informed with frequent progress notes. While you receive wound treatment through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, you continue to receive your routine medical care from your primary physicians.

Does insurance cover specialized wound care treatments?

Medicare, Medi-Cal, and many health plans cover hyperbaric oxygen treatments. We will work with you to determine what your specific plan covers.

What can I expect at the first appointment?

At your first appointment you are assessed by the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program team. They review of your medical history, diagnostic tests, and make treatment plan recommendations. The first appointment usually lasts 1 - 3 hours.

Please bring these items to your first appointment:

  • insurance card or information
  • list of current medications, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins
  • list of allergies

Through a partnership with Saint Francis, St. Mary’s Medical Center Advanced Wound Healing offers HBO therapy at Saint Francis for their patients with diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections, compromised skin grafts and flaps, and wounds that haven't healed within 30 days.

Learn More About Our Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program

For more information on HBO therapy, to make an appointment, or to refer a patient, please call (415) 353-6700.