Next Level Hyperbarics | Difference between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers

Difference between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers



Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has evolved from a niche treatment in the 1970s, when only about 27 facilities offered it nationwide, to a widely recognized medical therapy. Today, between 1,800 to 2,000 hospitals and an additional 500 to 700 non-hospital-based clinics provide HBOT chambers in the United States. 

This doesn’t even account for the private ownership of soft-sided hyperbaric chambers in homes. With this expansion, understanding the hyperbaric meaning—literally “increased pressure”—and its application through different types of hyperbaric chambers becomes essential.


  • HBOT involves breathing pure oxygen in a controlled, pressurised environment.
  • The increased pressure allows the lungs to gather more oxygen than would be possible at normal air pressure.
  • This oxygen-rich bloodstream accelerates the body’s healing processes and boosts immune system functions.


Next Level Hyperbarics | Difference between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers


The Rise of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The ascent of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) from a relatively obscure treatment to a widely acclaimed medical intervention marks a significant chapter in the annals of therapeutic innovation. 

This remarkable journey reflects not just advancements in medical technology but also a broader acceptance within the healthcare community and by patients seeking effective treatments for a plethora of conditions.


  • Expanding Accessibility

The catalyst behind the meteoric rise in HBOT’s popularity lies in its demonstrated efficacy across a spectrum of FDA-approved conditions, such as certain types of wounds, carbon monoxide poisoning, and decompression sickness, among others. Yet, its application has not been confined strictly to these ailments. Off-label uses treatments not specifically approved by the FDA but recognized for their potential benefits, have seen HBOT employed in managing conditions ranging from stroke recovery to inflammation reduction and enhancing the body’s overall ability to heal.


This broadening of HBOT’s therapeutic scope has been paralleled by a significant increase in accessibility. From the initial handful of facilities in the 1970s, there are now thousands of hospitals and clinics offering HBOT. This expansion is a testament to both the growing demand for hyperbaric treatments and the medical community’s acknowledgement of its benefits. Patients, who once had to travel great distances for treatments, can now find HBOT services much closer to home, significantly reducing the barriers to accessing this therapy.

  • Network Growth

As the number of facilities offering HBOT expanded, so too did the network of medical professionals specializing in hyperbaric medicine. This burgeoning community has played a crucial role in advancing HBOT’s application, refining treatment protocols, and conducting research to explore new therapeutic avenues. The collaborative efforts within this network have not only enhanced the understanding of HBOT’s mechanisms but also improved patient outcomes through more targeted treatment approaches.

Educational initiatives and professional training programs have further solidified the foundation of knowledge surrounding HBOT, ensuring that practitioners are well-equipped to administer this therapy effectively. These developments have fostered an environment where innovation thrives, paving the way for the next generation of hyperbaric treatments.

  • Concerns and Limitations

However, the expansion of HBOT has not been without its challenges. The introduction of soft-sided or hyperbaric portable chambers has sparked a debate within the medical community about the efficacy and safety of these devices compared to their hard-shell counterparts. Designed for convenience and home use, these portable chambers offer lower pressures than traditional hyperbaric chambers, raising questions about their therapeutic value for certain medical conditions.


While these soft-sided chambers have made HBOT more accessible to a broader audience, they also highlight the need for rigorous standards and patient education. The allure of at-home therapy has led some to overlook the nuances that distinguish medical-grade hyperbaric treatments from those that might be considered more for wellness or preventive care. This distinction is critical, as the therapeutic outcomes of HBOT are closely tied to the specific conditions under which the therapy is administered, including the chamber’s pressure level and the purity of oxygen used.


Furthermore, the commercialization of HBOT, particularly with the marketing of portable chambers, has raised ethical concerns regarding the sale and promotion of these devices. Without proper guidance, patients may have unrealistic expectations about the benefits of at-home hyperbaric treatments or, worse, may forgo essential medical advice in favour of self-treatment. This underscores the importance of regulation, standardization, and patient education in ensuring that HBOT’s growth remains both ethical and beneficial to those it seeks to serve.


Hard Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers


Hard hyperbaric oxygen chambers, the cornerstone of modern hyperbaric medicine, represent the pinnacle of hyperbaric therapy’s efficacy and safety. Engineered with precision and designed to deliver 100% medical-grade oxygen at pressures significantly higher than atmospheric pressure, these chambers are instrumental in treating a broad spectrum of medical conditions, both FDA-approved and off-label.

  • Gold Standard: Hard-shell hyperbaric oxygen chambers are considered the gold standard in medical settings.
  • Construction and Operation: These bariatric chambers are made from steel and encapsulate patients in 100% oxygen at pressures exceeding 2.0 ATA.
  • FDA Approval: The FDA has approved these chambers for treating 14 specific conditions, with ongoing research suggesting broader applicability.
  • Safety and Efficacy: Installation requires adherence to stringent regulations like NFPA-99 to ensure safety and efficacy.


Soft-Sided Hyperbaric Chambers


  • Design and Use: Soft-sided chambers, often referred to as mild HBOT or mHBOT, are portable solutions designed for temporary relief.
  • Pressure and Oxygen Delivery: They can reach pressures around 1.3 ATA and deliver 24% oxygen levels, significantly lower than hard-shell chambers.
  • Limitations: Despite offering a form of hyperbaric therapy, their therapeutic value, especially for medical treatments, is limited.


Comparing Oxygen Levels and Therapeutic Effects


The essence of hyperbaric therapy lies in its ability to increase oxygen levels in the body significantly. While soft-sided chambers slightly elevate oxygen concentration beyond normal air levels, hard-shell chambers provide a substantial boost, creating an environment where oxygen concentration in the blood can soar to 1,824 mmHg compared to 230 mmHg in soft-sided chambers. This difference underscores the vast gap in therapeutic potential between the two types of chambers.


Next Level Hyperbarics | Difference between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers


The Clinical Implications of Chamber Type


Medical practitioners and patients alike must navigate the differences between chamber types, especially when considering the benefits of the hyperbaric chamber. 

Hard-shell chambers are preferred for their efficacy in treating a range of conditions with high-pressure, 100% oxygen therapy. On the other hand, the use of soft-sided chambers for medical treatments remains controversial, with their benefits often not extending beyond those of ambient air or simple oxygen masks.



The Risks of Inadequate Oxygen Therapy


Effective wound healing and infection control often require bacteriostatic conditions — an environment where bacteria cannot thrive. The pressure and oxygen levels achievable in hard-shell hyperbaric chambers are pivotal in creating these conditions. Unlike their soft-sided counterparts, hard-shell chambers deliver the necessary chamber oxygen levels to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and fungus effectively. This capability underscores one of the many hyperbaric chambers benefits, particularly in medical settings where controlling infection is crucial. In contrast, soft-sided chambers, often marketed for their convenience and lower mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy cost, lack the necessary pressure capabilities. This limitation can result in inadequate therapy, potentially worsening the conditions they are intended to treat, and highlights the critical importance of selecting the appropriate type of hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber.


Next Level Hyperbarics | Difference between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers


The Choice of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatments


When exploring hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatments, it’s essential for patients and healthcare providers to make informed decisions. These decisions encompass choosing the correct type of hyperbaric chamber, understanding what is a hyperbaric chamber and its role in treating specific medical conditions, and aligning the choice with the therapy’s intended goals.


The selection process involves considering the hyperbaric chambers for sale, weighing the benefits of each type, and determining the best fit based on the patient’s needs and the therapeutic objectives. It’s crucial to recognize the distinction between the types of chambers available — hard-shell chambers offer more significant hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits for severe medical conditions due to their higher pressure and oxygen delivery capabilities. In contrast, soft-sided chambers, often used for milder conditions, present a more affordable option but with limitations in their therapeutic efficacy.


Making an informed decision involves understanding the benefits, potential risks, and logistical considerations of HBOT. To learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments and to explore your options, visit Next Level Hyperbaric Therapy.


vitaeris oxygen therapy chamber



The journey of hyperbaric oxygen therapy from a handful of facilities to widespread availability has been marked by significant advancements in understanding and technology. Yet, the distinction between hard and soft hyperbaric chambers remains critical, especially when considering the therapeutic outcomes. 


For patients and healthcare providers alike, making informed decisions about hyperbaric therapy means looking beyond the convenience of hyperbaric portable or home-based options to the proven efficacy of hard-shell chambers. As the field continues to evolve, the emphasis must always remain on safety, effectiveness, and the potential to genuinely improve patient outcomes.

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