In hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), oxygen under pressure dissolves into the blood through a process called hyperbaric oxygenation. The increased pressure in the hyperbaric chamber allows for greater absorption of oxygen into the bloodstream. Here’s how it works:
- Henry’s Law: Henry’s Law states that the amount of gas that can dissolve into a liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas. In the case of HBOT, the increased pressure inside the chamber increases the partial pressure of oxygen.
- Increased oxygen partial pressure: Breathing pure oxygen inside the pressurized chamber raises the partial pressure of oxygen in the lungs. This increased partial pressure gradient drives the diffusion of oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream.
- Gas diffusion: Oxygen molecules diffuse across the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) and enter the bloodstream. The high oxygen concentration in the alveoli facilitates the movement of oxygen from the alveolar air into the capillaries surrounding the alveoli.
- Oxygen transport: Once dissolved in the blood, the oxygen molecules bind to hemoglobin in red blood cells or dissolve directly into the plasma. The oxygen-rich blood is then carried by the circulatory system to all parts of the body, delivering oxygen to tissues and organs.
By breathing oxygen under pressure, the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the blood is significantly increased compared to breathing oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure. This allows for enhanced oxygen delivery to tissues, even in areas with restricted blood flow or reduced oxygen supply, such as in wounds or damaged tissues.
It’s important to note that while HBOT increases the dissolved oxygen content in the blood, the overall oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood remains relatively constant. HBOT primarily augments the dissolved oxygen fraction rather than significantly increasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin.