The purpose of oxygen therapy for the
carbon monoxide poisoning is to reduce the amount of
carbon monoxide in the blood and restore the oxygen level to normal as quickly
For hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the affected person
lies down on a stretcher that slides into an acrylic tube about
7 ft (2.1 m) long and
25 in. (64 cm) across. The
pressure inside the tube is raised, and 100% oxygen is delivered under high
pressure. Each treatment session lasts about 90 minutes. After treatment, the
chamber is depressurized slowly while the person rests inside.
What To Expect After Treatment
A person typically recovers from carbon
monoxide poisoning within a few days. But it is important to remember that
long-term effects may occur days or weeks after carbon monoxide
Why It Is Done
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be
used to quickly reduce both the carbon monoxide level in the blood and the
symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is
evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Things to consider include:
- The amount of carbon monoxide in the
- How bad the symptoms are, such as whether a person has lost
consciousness or appears confused.
- The distance to the nearest
- The person's age, the presence of heart or brain
disease, and overall health. Infants, small children, older adults, or people
with health problems are more easily affected by high amounts of carbon
monoxide in the blood, and their symptoms usually are more
- Pregnancy and whether the pregnant woman has had a
significant exposure to carbon monoxide.
Treatments may be repeated depending on how well
the first treatment works.
How Well It Works
It is not clear if hyperbaric oxygen treatments work better than oxygen therapy at normal pressure to reduce the risk of
cognitive problems, such as lasting damage to memory, attention, and
In pregnant women who
have been exposed to carbon monoxide, hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduces the
time needed to lower carbon monoxide levels in fetal blood, which increases
the chances for a healthy baby. The fetus has a higher risk for carbon monoxide
poisoning, because it takes longer for carbon monoxide to be eliminated from
fetal blood than from the mother's blood.3
Risks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy may include
ear pain, rupture of the eardrum, sinus discomfort, a bloody nose, and in very
rare cases, seizure or problems from too much oxygen.
What To Think About
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
chambers are located only at specialty medical centers or major
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers also are used to treat
people who have decompression sickness from scuba diving.
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
Weaver LK, et al. (2002). Hyperbaric oxygen for acute
carbon monoxide poisoning. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(14): 1057–1067.
Buckley NA, et al. (2011). Hyperbaric oxygen for carbon monoxide poisoning. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
Kao LW, Nanagas KA (2005). Carbon monoxide poisoning.
Medical Clinics of North America, 89(6):
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
Current as of
||March 1, 2012