When patients come into the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit for the first time, they are often anxious and have many questions. This information is intended to answer some of the most common questions. We hope it helps and so lessens any fears you have.
If you have not already spoken to one of the Unit's nurses, or have any other questions you would like to ask, please feel free to contact us by telephone, post or e-mail.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?
You will be treated in a room that can be pressurised called a "Hyperbaric Chamber".
The oxygen is given through a hood that has a soft neck seal. This hood looks a bit like a clear plastic spaceman's helmet.
Where is the Hyperbaric Chamber?
The hospital chamber in Aberdeen is in the National Hyperbaric Centre, 123 Ashgrove Road West, next to the Ambulance station. This is within the grounds of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Our chamber is quite large with room to walk around inside. It is approximately 6.3 metres (20 ½ feet) long and 2 metres (6 ½ feet) wide.
Inside the chamber, there are three beds and one folding chair. You can sit or lie down, whichever you find more comfortable. A nurse is always in the chamber during treatments. Usually there will be two or three other patients being treated in the chamber at the same time.
Why Hyperbaric Oxygen?
Hyperbaric Oxygen increases the amount of oxygen in your body. The larger amounts of oxygen in the tissues help in a wide variety of conditions.
- Decompression illness (the "bends")
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Radiation necrosis
- Reconstructive surgery
- Some infections
- Some wounds
What will I need to do?
You will need to change into comfortable cotton trousers and top. You will also change into special anti-static shoes. We provide the clothes and shoes for you.
You may wish to take a book or magazine into the chamber with you. Newspapers cannot be taken into the chamber, but crosswords can be cut out to take in. If you wear glasses, please remember to bring them with you.
Watches and jewellery with stones are best left at home, or given to the nurse to lock away. The chamber can damage these items.
A drink will be provided for you to have in the chamber.
It is best to go to the toilet before going into the chamber, as the toilet is not easily available. If this causes you concern please speak to the nurse.
What things should not be taken into the chamber?
- Rings with stones.
- Watches (the chamber has a clock).
- Smoking materials (e.g. matches, lighters, cigarettes, etc).
- Hearing aids and wigs (again, speak to the nurse if this concerns you).
- Aerosols (including asthma inhalers and GTN sprays).
- Anything flammable.
- Batteries or anything containing batteries.
Please note this list is not complete and may be added to.
How is the chamber pressurised?
The chamber is run by technicians. They pump compressed air into the chamber to increase the pressure.
The chamber does not move.
The technicians watch the chamber on camera and can talk to you through a two-way communication system.
If you feel cold, let us know and the technicians will turn on the heaters.
What will I feel while the chamber is being pressurised?
The first thing you will notice is that it is noisy. Ear protection is provided and we recommend that you use it.
You will also need to clear your ears. This feels similar to when you are flying, but you will need to clear your ears much more often.
You can do this by:
- Sipping water and / or swallowing.
- Pinching your nose and blowing.
You must keep doing this while the chamber is being pressurised. This takes about 10 minutes.
If you have any problems let the nurse know.
Please do not wait until your ears hurt. The technicians can slow the rate the chamber is pressurised to make clearing your ears easier.
You may also notice the temperature in the chamber rising during compression. This is quite normal.
How long will my treatments last?
Your consultant will discuss with you the number of treatments you need. You will usually be in the chamber for around 2 ½ hours for each treatment. You will be at the Hyperbaric Unit a little longer as the doctor may need to see you and you will also need time to change.
If you need ambulance transport to take you home (or back to your ward) there may be a delay while we wait for it to arrive.
Treatments run from Monday to Friday (excluding holidays), usually in the morning.
What happens after my treatment?
Shortly after your treatment, you can go back home or to your ward.
You should be aware that after several weeks of treatment, Hyperbaric Oxygen might affect your eyesight. It tends to make some people shortsighted. Not everyone is affected but sometimes a change in spectacle prescription is required for a short time. Eyesight should return to normal a few months after your treatment.
Do not drive if your eyesight is affected.
Things you need to tell us
Please let us know if you:
- Have a cold or are unwell. It may affect your ability to clear your ears.
- Have on any medication patches, such as GTN.
- Have toothache or have a temporary filling.
- Have an appointment at the same time as one of your treatments.
- Are, or may be, pregnant.
We take great care to try to keep the risk of fire in the chamber to a minimum. This is why certain items (as listed previously) are not allowed into the chamber.
In the unlikely event of a fire in the chamber the deluge system will operate. This is a strong sprinkler system, which is designed to put out any fire quickly. The water will stop automatically.
The oxygen in your hood will be changed to air by the technicians.
The nurse inside the chamber will give you any further directions.
There is no smoking within the building.
We strongly recommend that you stop smoking for the duration of your treatments. We do this because smoking reduces the uptake of oxygen by your lungs. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels to narrow. This reduces the amount of blood that gets to your tissues.
The chamber is also used to treat emergency patients (e.g. divers). This means that your treatment might need to be delayed or cancelled at short notice. This rarely happens and we would try to call to let you know.
If you need to contact us, please call:
Aberdeen (01224) 553264
A nurse is usually available during office hours. If we are not available, you can leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
For urgent diving related enquiries, please call the local-rate helpline on 0845 408 6008
More information on some of the conditions treated using Hyperbaric Oxygen can be found in the appropriate sections of this site:
This information was originally produced on behalf of the Unit by Senior Staff Nurse N. Coxon, subsequently amended by Charge Nurse Kenny Crosbie.