Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the first step in the treatment of many ailments including injuries, infections, and inflammation. Hyperbaric chambers increase the concentration of oxygen in tissue which aids healing for all conditions that involve tissue oxygen deficiency.
The demand for this type of treatment is growing rapidly, which is why doctors across the country are deciding to invest in hyperbaric chambers for out-patient use. If you’re considering buying one, you need to research the market first to make sure that you’re making a sound investment.
In this article, you will find out more about different types of hyperbaric chambers and their respective prices. You will also learn about the factors you should consider when buying a hyperbaric chamber or oxygen therapy system
Types of Hyperbaric Chambers and Their Prices
The most important classification of hyperbaric chambers is based on the air pressure they create. The pressure determines the oxygen levels they create and the therapeutic effect. Heavy duty chambers that create higher pressures cost more and do more faster.
Military-grade chambers are the most powerful, followed by medical-grade chambers for hospital use and home or portable chambers for personal use. The price of hyperbaric chambers reflects their power, which means that military-grade models cost the most, while portable models are the least expensive.
|Internal Pressure||Cost||Maintenance Issues|
|Military||4+ ATM||125K+||None Known|
|Medical||2-3 ATM||75K+||None Known|
|Portable or home||1.4 ATM||4K+||Zipper 100-200 uses depending on brand|
Military hyperbaric chambers, also known as diving or decompression chambers, are primarily used underwater. Their main purpose is to carry divers to a specified depth and provide a reliable retrieval point while they are underwater. Ever since the World War II, the United States Army has also used hyperbaric chambers as a go-to treatment for military divers suffering from a variety of conditions.
Capable of creating air pressures of over 4 atmospheres, military-grade hyperbaric chambers are the strongest on the market. In simple terms, they can push four or more times more oxygen than normal into the body. To buy one of these chambers, you will have to invest about $250,000.
As the name suggests, medical-grade hyperbaric chambers are used in hospitals to treat a wide range of ailments. They can create pressures of up to 3 atmospheres, which is on par with the universally accepted recommendations on appropriate therapeutic oxygen levels. Medical hyperbaric chambers can thus push about 2-3 times the normal amount of oxygen into the body without causing adverse effects.
Smaller and less powerful than military-grade hyperbaric chambers, medical chambers also cost considerably less. Investing in one of these chambers will cost you about $75,000. While this is fairly reasonable for doctors with many patients in need of this treatment, many still find it cost-prohibitive.
Medical chambers are designed to support entry and exit patients on a stretcher or gurney. This enables the treatment of people with restricted or no mobility.
Home or Portable
Portable hyperbaric chambers are primarily designed for at-home treatment. Compact and lightweight, they are easily transportable, which also makes them great for emergency treatments. Home chambers can produce pressures of up to 1.4 atmospheres and push about 40% more oxygen than normal into the body. Also referred to as soft-sided, they are more compact than other types of hyperbaric chambers.
Due to their limited air pressure capacity, portable chambers are primarily intended for the light treatment of various ailments. Several studies have found them effective in the treatment of certain symptoms of toxic injuries and other toxin-related illnesses. Depending on their size, portable hyperbaric chambers can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000.
The most common issue with used soft-sided hyperbaric chambers is zipper failure. Normally zippers need to be replaced or repaired after a hundred or so uses.
Using a Hyperbaric Chamber
Hyperbaric chambers are a sealed pressurized vessel. Use is a five-stage process:
- The user gets inside and seals the container
- Air is pumped in and the pressure increases
- The user dwells for the period of the dive, normally 1-3 hours
- The air is released to depressurize the chamber
- The chamber is opened and the user exits.
Entry and Exit
Hard-sided medical and military chambers use a rigid door which seals securely and is large enough for a to insert and remove a gurney with an immobilized patient.
Soft-sided chambers usually use a large zipper with flaps which seal under pressure. These zippers extend the full length of the tube and are large enough for the user to enter and exit. Operating the zippers requires flexibility or assistance making them difficult for mobility-compromised to use without assistance.
The difficulty of entry and exit makes tube style hyperbaric chambers inappropriate for most individuals with significant paralysis.
Normally a user will remain in a chamber for 1-3 hours as a dive. A normal course of hyperbaric therapy includes at least 40 to 120 dives or a total time of 80 to 240 hours.
Many people feel claustrophobic while using hyperbaric chambers and experience discomfort in the ears and sinuses during pressurization and depressurization. The rate of pressurization must be regulated to enable users to equalize ear and sinus pressure.
Medical and military chambers normally require an external operator to regulate pressurization and depressurization speed to avoid inner ear injury for users unable to equalize ear pressure.
Home hyperbaric chambers approximate the pressure swing of an airplane traveling to 12,000 feet to sea level back to 12,000 feet. This swing is easily tolerated by most individuals as long as the descent and ascent are not too rapid.
Maintenance and Durability
Hard chambers have a door with a durable seal which lasts for a long time. They generally do not require maintenance beyond checking that seals and pressure regulation components function properly.
The most common issue with used soft-sided hyperbaric chambers is zipper failure. Zippers may need replacement or repair every after a hundred or so uses because pressurization and depressurization fatigues fabric used in soft chamber construction.
No Oxygen Toxicity
Mild and medical hyperbaric chambers do not create sufficient pressure to cause any oxygen toxicity effects. Toxicity normally requires at least 4 ATM of oxygen partial pressure for 12 or more hours. Only military hyperbaric chambers are capable of reaching these pressures.
They are medically regulated because rapid pressurization or depressurization can cause inner ear injury and discomfort from claustrophobia. Soft-sided and medical chambers do not present risk of oxygen toxicity so the perceived risk relates entirely to pressurization and depressurization.
Used Hyperbaric Options and Cost
Although most doctors choose to buy new hyperbaric chambers, some instead opt to purchase used chambers at considerably lower prices. The secondhand hyperbaric chamber market isn’t exactly booming, but if you look closely enough, you’ll find well-priced used models in excellent condition.
The price of used hyperbaric chambers depends on a variety of factors. The size, the age, and the condition of the chamber all play an important role in the price. As a rule, chambers that have a gurney to move the patient in and out are priced higher than those that don’t.
The number of dive cycles that home or flexible chamber has made is another important factor. Similar to mileage in cars and other vehicles, the more dive cycles (full-length treatments) a chamber has made, the lower its price in the secondhand market.
Used medical-grade single user hyperbaric chambers manufactured less than a decade ago cost anywhere between $50,000 and $80,000. If they’ve been in use for more than ten years, you may find them at a slightly lower price, but $40,000 is usually the minimum for this type of chamber.
As with brand new models, the prices of portable hyperbaric chambers are considerably lower than for medical-grade chambers. Depending on the factors mentioned above, you can pay between $2,000 and $16,000 for one used portable chamber in good-to-excellent condition.
Military-grade hyperbaric chambers are very hard to find in the secondhand market. If you happen to find a moderately sized military model, you’ll likely pay well over $100,000 to own it.
Considerations Before Buying
If you are a doctor buying a medical-grade hyperbaric chamber, you will obviously need to consider its price. Depending on your area of expertise, you also have to consider the needs of your patients and buy a chamber that can produce enough pressure to treat the conditions your patients are dealing with.
On the other hand, if you are an individual buying a hyperbaric chamber for personal use, there are a few other important things you need to consider first.
Prescription to Buy
Whether you opt for hospital treatments or decide to buy a hyperbaric chamber for use at home, you will have to get a prescription from your doctor first. Although the FDA classifies soft-sided hyperbaric chambers as Class II medical devices which are usually available over-the-counter, they can’t be sold to patients in the US without a prescription. This requirement doesn’t exist in most other countries in the world.
The Effectiveness of Each System Type
Extensive research has found that hyperbaric chambers were effective for many different ailments and illnesses. As of this writing, the FDA and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society have approved the use of hyperbaric chambers in the treatment of 14 conditions.
These range from carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness to brain and sinus infections, radiation injuries caused by cancer therapy, and even sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
Recent studies have also found positive effects of hyperbaric chamber therapy in the treatment of many other conditions, including autism in children, brain trauma and cerebral stroke, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Although not officially sanctioned, these findings have already found application in alternative medicine.
However, it is important to know that each of these positive effects only occurs at specific air pressure values. For example, a pressure of 1.4 atmospheres (achievable by portable chambers) was enough to show improvements in the symptoms of autism in children. On the other hand, the treatment of severe anemia requires a pressure of 2-3 atmospheres, which is only possible with medical or military models.
For this reason, it is important to always opt for a chamber that creates enough pressure to meet your needs. If you’re buying a chamber for personal use, you should make sure that it creates enough oxygen partial pressure to help you achieve your goal.
Buyers often underestimate the amount of time they will need to spend in a hyperbaric chamber. This causes many home chambers to fall into disuse.
Medical Treatment vs. At Home (Cost Comparison)
If you opt for out-patient treatment at your doctor’s or a local hospital, it could cost you quite a bit.
Depending on your condition, you may need anywhere between 40 and 80 sessions to complete your treatment. A single session in medical-grade chambers costs around $250-350, whereas for portable chambers the cost ranges from $75 (with room oxygen) to $150 (with an oxygen concentrator).
This means that the total cost of your treatment could add up to $12,000 for portable chamber treatment or $20,000 for treatment in large, medical-grade hyperbaric chambers.
While buying a medical-grade chamber only makes sense for doctors and medical institutions, investing in a portable chamber for personal use may save you money in the long run. Rather than paying up to $12,000, you could buy a new or used portable chamber for as much money or less. After you’ve completed the treatment, you can sell it on the secondhand market to recoup a portion of the cost.
The Final Word
Buying a hyperbaric chamber could be a very smart investment, but only if you consider some important things first. If you’re a doctor, you need to buy a model that can achieve the air pressure necessary to help in the treatment of your patients. If you’re buying a portable chamber for personal use, you need to consult with your doctor to make sure that the model you opt for will be beneficial for your treatment.
The primary cost of hyperbaric chambers is the time spent using them. A dive takes about 2 hours from start to finish, including entering the chamber, dwell time and depressurization. Most conditions require at least 40 dives to increase and maintain the oxygen partial pressure the body needs to heal. The time cost means that hyperbaric chambers tend to disuse. Discomfort from cramped quarters and time requirements limit hyperbaric use.
Of course, the price is another important consideration. Even though portable hyperbaric chambers are fairly affordable, many will still find them cost-prohibitive.
There are affordable alternatives to hyperbaric chambers. These alternatives can help users achieve and maintain hyperbaric results at a fraction of the price and in a much shorter time. These systems combine varying combinations of oxygen, hypoxia, and exercise to increase oxygen levels with a mask.
The alternatives also provide a good long-term alternative for able-bodied users and have a history of producing equivalent and even superior results in very short times. The original inventor of these systems was Manfred von Ardenne The alternatives normally create multiple benefits including those normally attributed to exercise.
The primary difference between hyperbaric chambers and LiveO2 systems is the use of internal oxygen and hypoxia during physical challenge. The physical challenge may range from a minor stimulus, like caffeine, to hyperthermia, hypothermia, and from mild to extreme exercise. Generally, these systems combine stationary exercise equipment with an oxygen source. These devices use the heart and lungs to increase oxygen partial pressure in body fluids.
Hyperbaric chambers use external pressure to increase the internal partial pressure of oxygen in the body. This creates an internal increase in oxygen partial pressure that aids healing. Hyperbaric chambers are outside-in pressure devices and do not require participation from the user.
More recent innovations use alternating hypoxia, low oxygen, and switch to hyperoxia, high oxygen during exertion. These systems amplify natural internal oxygen transport to target specific areas, organs, muscles and brain with short bursts of oxygen. These bursts tend to create durable results because they create very high oxygen levels in the interior of the vascular system to restore healthy vascular function resulting in a reduction of treatment time.
Able-bodied users find these alternative systems preferable to hyperbaric chambers:
- Shorter treatment time
- Elimination of the need for captivity
- Eliminate pressurization
- Meets the daily need for exercise
- Specific programs for different body systems, brain, immune system, etc
|Supports immobile users||Yes||No - able bodied only|
|Time to Results||40-80 Hours - Depends on pressure||15 Min - 2 hours|
|Oxygen Delivery Mode||External Pressure||Mask|
|Mechanism of Action||Diffusion||Circulation|
|Capillary Threshold||Military Only||Yes|
|Duration of Benefits||Days||Months|
By comparison, alternatives use internal pressure when the user is able to physically participate in the process by performing some type of exertion. These alternative use internal pressure in the heart and lungs created during exercise to increase oxygen partial pressures which have similar and often superior effects to hyperbaric treatments in shorter times.
These alternatives require users:
- To be moderately able-bodied for some form of exercise or hyperthermia
- To be able to wear a mask for oxygen delivery.
One such alternative is the LiveO2 system, which uses hyper-oxygenation during exercise to push oxygen into your body’s cells. It uses internal pressure from the heart and lungs during exercise instead of external pressure from a chamber to increase oxygen levels.
This system is not a hyperbaric chamber.
Instead of pushing oxygen from the outside of the body, it uses your respiratory and cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen from the inside. With more oxygen, the cells will have more energy to initiate restorative processes in your body. At the same time, you’ll feel much better and have the strength you need to excel in all areas of your life.