View from inside an oxygen chamber

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a non-invasive treatment option available for a variety of medical conditions. For the majority of patients, HBOT therapy produces little to no side effects and patients are able to relax while undergoing the treatment. As with any medical treatment or procedure, HBOT comes with considerations and there is a small risk of possible side effects. In order to avoid any potential side effects or possible complications, Dr. Spiegel will go over your medical history during the initial consultation and discuss how HBOT works, as well as the best way to get the most out of your treatments.

When to Use Caution

Certain medical conditions can increase the chance for possible side effects with HBOT treatment. If you have any of the following conditions, please bring them to the attention of Dr. Spiegel in your initial consultation.

  • Pneumothorax, unless treated with a Heimlich valve
  • Acute upper respiratory infection or sinusitis
  • Emphysema
  • Uncontrolled high fever
  • History of ear complications
  • Thoracic surgery or spontaneous pneumothorax
  • Seizure disorders

Possible Side Effects

With HBOT therapy, side effects are generally mild and related to the significant changes in pressure inside the chamber, as well as the increased oxygen levels used. In most cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is well tolerated, non-invasive, and produces very few side effects. Dr. Spiegel will discuss possible side effects and address your risk based on health history and any cautionary conditions as mentioned above. Possible side effects include:

Ear Barotrauma

The main side effect reported with hyperbaric medicine is ear discomfort or injury to the increased air pressure. In most cases, this is similar to the pain or discomfort you may experience in a drive through the mountains or the cabin pressure you feel when flying in an airplane. Patients with ear sensitivity may require ear tubes before HBOT treatments.

Oxygen Toxicity

Clinical HBOT treatments work well within the safety limits of oxygen levels and the risk of oxygen toxicity is rare. In cases of oxygen toxicity, seizures can occur. It is more likely to occur in patients with pre-existing seizure disorders or hypoglycemia. If this does occur, the treatment is to simply stop the HBOT therapy and seizures will stop.

Vision Changes

Air pressure changes that occur during HBOT treatments can cause visual changes. These changes are temporary and typically revert to normal once therapy is ended. These changes can include changes in the shape of the eye lens, resulting in worsening myopia, or nearsightedness, but at the same time improves focus on objects near the eye.


Diabetic patients can experience a drop in blood sugar during HBOT treatments. In these cases, Dr. Spiegel and his staff may encourage you to eat before coming in for your treatments and may require regular blood sugar monitoring during treatments.

Sinus or Tooth Squeeze

Because your sinus cavity is made up of air-filled spaces, you can experience pressure changes and discomfort similar to that seen in the ear. In addition, recent dental work can leave air-filled pockets that can also be affected by pressure changes. This pressure can lead to discomfort and possible cracking of teeth.

Side Effect Study and Your HBOT Experience

While there is a possibility of side effects with HBOT treatment, as there is with every medical procedure, the most common complication is increased pressure equalization in the ears. A recent study published in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine looked at the complications and side effects of HBOT therapy. There study concluded that HBOT treatment is a beneficial treatment option with a normal rate of complications, similar to that of other medical procedures. They also determined that serious complications rarely occur.

Dr. Spiegel and his team work to reduce the risk of any possible complications by learning your medical history and working with you to make the most out of your HBOT experience. Therapy sessions last no longer than two hours and the pressure levels never exceed three times that of normal air pressure. Before beginning any HBOT treatment course, Dr. Spiegel and his team will evaluate your medical history and address any individual concerns.

If you would like to learn more about non-invasive hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, give our office a call today. You may also click HERE to fill out our online request form.