Neymar’s oxygen chamber: see the dangers of using therapy for physical performance and rejuvenation

The use of a hyperbaric chamber has become common among celebrities – athletes such as Neymar and artists such as Claudia Raya report that they are proficient in the technique. Its purported rejuvenating and physical performance enhancing capabilities are some of the purported motivations for purchasing the device. However, the Brazilian Society of Hyperbaric Medicine (SBMH) emphasizes that the oxygen therapy procedure has very limited indications and indiscriminate use and without specialized medical supervision can bring risks such as convulsions and pulmonary edema. In addition, they say, there is no scientific evidence for the intended goals.

THE Federal Council of Medicine (CFM) regulated the therapeutic procedure in 1955 as a medical exclusivity treatment in 15 specific clinical conditions. None of the scientifically proven and approved applications refer to rejuvenation or improvement of physical performance.

Scientific director of the SBMH and professor at its Medical School Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)Marcus Vinícius de Morais explains that there is a wave false information circulating for the process. “Artists, celebrities and athletes have been harassed for using hyperbarics and unfortunately wrongly,” he says. “There are no works to justify it, serious and consistent work that says it improves performance or recovers the athlete.”

The treatment has patients breathe pure oxygen at an atmospheric pressure two to three times that of sea level in a hyperbaric chamber. The machine is a cylindrical hospital medical equipment made of steel or acrylic under pressure with compressed air, which can be single or multi-patient (where more than one person can fit).

Morais warns that buying the device for home use (the only patient) is not recommended because of the risk of the oxygen pump exploding, which has already happened in other countries. “It has to be in a hospital setting, these people can have a number of complications, one of which is pulmonary fibrosis.”

The hyperbaric chamber has limited use for specific cases.

Photo: Mauricio de Souza/Estadão

For which cases is the treatment indicated?

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The equipment has a limited use for specific cases. Through this it is possible, for example, to fight bacterial infections, fungi, to compensate for the lack of oxygen resulting from blockage or destruction of blood vessels, as in cases of crushing and amputation of hands and feet. It is mainly used in the healing of chronic and acute wounds.

CFM’s recognized applications of oxygen therapy treatment are:

  • Gas embolisms?
  • decompression sickness;
  • Traumatic air embolisms?
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.
  • Poisoning by cyanide or hydrogen cyanide derivatives.
  • Gas gangrene?
  • Fournier’s syndrome?
  • Other necrotizing soft tissue infections: cellulitis, fasciitis and myositis.
  • Acute traumatic ischemia: crush injury, compartment syndrome, reimplantation of amputated limbs and others.
  • Acute vasculitis caused by allergies, drugs, or biological toxins (arachnoids, snakes, and insects). thermal and electrical burns.
  • Resistant lesions: skin ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, bedsores, ulcers due to autoimmune vasculitis, suture breakdown.
  • Radiation injuries: radiodermatitis, osteoradionecrosis and radiation damage to the mucosa.
  • Compromised or dangerous fins or grafts.
  • Osteomyelitis;
  • Acute anemia, in cases of impossibility of blood transfusion.

The application in other cases – such as e.g fibromyalgia – has not yet been studied. Research in the United States and Canada is evaluating the effectiveness of oxygen therapy in reducing muscle pain, one of the symptoms of the disease.

“Patients who start hyperbaric for other reasons but have fibromyalgia report improvement. But this is still not science. It will be science when we can prove it scientifically, with well-designed and well-defined studies to present to the population,” says Marcus de Morais.

The doctor also mentions that in relation to other conditions for which the supposed effectiveness of the technique is revealed, such as e.g. Alzheimer’sits sequels cerebrovascular accident (CVA), autism the Parkinson’s, there is no proof.

How is the treatment done?

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The patient is inside a hyperbaric chamber, lying down for 90 minutes, once a day in most cases. The number of sessions required, duration, pressure level and application intervals vary. They depend on the pathology and protocols used and it is up to the physician to make the definitions.

“By repeating this treatment you increase the amount of oxygen in the body by 15 times, this stimulates the body to heal, reduces swelling from trauma, helps the antibiotic to work, forms new blood vessels,” says Marcus de Morais.

The hyperbaric chamber can be individual or collective.
The hyperbaric chamber can be individual or collective. Photo: SBMH

THE oxygen administered with suitable plastic masks and helmets. In the case of a patient’s chambers, the person can breathe oxygen directly from the chamber’s atmosphere when pressurized with that gas. More than 90 minutes of use may lead to a seizure.

Like any medical treatment, it has side effects. “This is the biggest fear of people, not only the danger of those who make hyperbaric as a joke not to age, to improve performance, for this or that, without official indication. They don’t know the danger they’re in,” he says.

The side effects that oxygen therapy can cause are related to pressure fluctuation and also oxygen toxicity. Offered dose and time of exposure to therapy may result in pulmonary and neurological toxicity.

Among the consequences are:

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  • Pulmonary toxicity: dry cough, retrosternal pain, hemoptysis and pulmonary edema.
  • Neurological toxicity: paresthesia and convulsions.
  • Hearing discomfort and barotrauma (pressure in the ear).
  • Discomfort in the sinuses.
  • Transient visual changes.
  • Hypoglycemia.

Hyperbaric may officially become a medical specialty

To prevent misuse of the equipment and to regulate the market, the Brazilian Society of Hyperbaric Medicine wants to turn hyperbaric medicine into an official medical specialty, just like cardiology or gynecology.

“We managed to do the title test and we are together with CFM (Federal Board of Medicine) in a technical chamber that does the field of action and we will bring the international conference,” says Morais.

Currently, it is still characterized as an area of ​​expertise, where doctors from different specialties attend a society-recognized course and become professionals in hyperbaric medicine.

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