Hyperbaric treatment on the cheap

Hand me a cheap plastic bag, an oxygen tank and some low-tech sensors and I’ll give you … well … I’ll give you them back. But a team from Sandia National Laboratory and a California company has combined the three into an inexpensive wound-healing device that the U.S. military says it plans to license for active and retired personnel. Think of it as a low-rent — but effective — hyperbaric chamber. But instead of costing $1 million to build and $1,500 per treatment, the whole shebang can be had for about $185.From Sandia National Laboratory:Sandia-aided method to heal wounded and diseased achieves US government acceptance

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ? A disposable plastic bag resembling the common kitchen garbage bag, its interior fed by a simple oxygen canister monitored by inexpensive, deceptively simple plastic instruments, has been licensed by the federal government as a tool to heal the sick and the wounded in the nation’s military, both active and retired.

The product ? called the Numobag? after its creator and distributor, Numotech Inc. of Northridge, Calif. ? was made commercially viable with the aid of inexpensive sensors and safety features developed at Sandia National Laboratories.

The heightened oxygen content helps oxidize, or burn up, organisms on the skin or in wounds, in addition to helping flesh itself heal. Tests of the bag have produced clinical evidence that the technique acts to minimize scarring and shorten treatment times for skin wounds, such as pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, severe burns, and plastic surgery.

The mobile, low-cost technique is of further interest to the military because it is also considered an effective treatment for smallpox and dermal anthrax.

“In other words,” says Ray Shaum, a senior administrator at Sandia, “the same characteristics that make Topical Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (THOT) an effective treatment regimen for diabetes-related necrotizing fasciitis make it effective for treating biological-warfare related lesions.”

In extreme cases, the tool could be used as a personal, inexpensive, and disposable isolation ward for the person being treated.

Because the process kills bacteria, expensive hospital disposal procedures are not needed and the bags are discarded as simple trash.

The official acceptance opens a huge guaranteed market for the product. The Numobag is currently used in hospitals in Florida and California, soon will be used at University of New Mexico Hospital, and by early 2004 is expected to be on the market in simplified form so that it can be used by patients in the comfort of their own homes. The home model is expected to eliminate the need for freestanding oxygen tanks by extracting oxygen directly from the atmosphere.

The Sandia research team was led by Mark Vaughn and Keith Miller. Sandia and Numotech each hold patents on the sensors and the Numobag, respectively, the result of their work under Sandia?s cooperative research and development agreement.

According to Dr. Robert Felton, founder, CEO, and president of Numotech, “We relied on Sandia Labs highly for its technical contributions. Without those, we could never have commercially produced the Numobag. We’re now capable of responding to the government for their needs for armed conflicts with a production of 50,000 Numobag Kits a month.”

The relatively new medical tool offers an inexpensive alternative to the solid, room-like constructions found in some hospitals. These similarly administer oxygen at higher concentration levels than ordinary air normally provides to stimulate wound healing. Such facilities are expensive to build, with capital costs of approximately $1 million, and are costly to maintain. They require extensive cleaning after each use, and require total immersion of the patient in the oxygen-enriched chamber. Costs for an oxygen treatment in such facilities can reach $1,500, while the Numobag’s estimated cost per treatment is $185, according to figures provided by MR Beal Inc., a New York-based investment house providing backing for the venture.

THOT is applied directly (and only) over the injured part, leaving the patient free to interact with his or her ordinary environment.

Says Vaughn, “The big thing is its ease of use. We developed helpful technology for making the Numobag more useful with our inexpensive, miniaturized pressure sensors. Now, with the official designation that this is a viable therapy, the Veterans Administration, Medicare-Medicaid, the Navy, the Army, the Air Force can say, ‘we want to put these on our boats or whatever, and we can buy a bunch of them.'”

Says Sandia tech transfer expert Gordon Leifeste, “What Numotech achieved with its persistence is very important. Programs like Medicare are heavily regulatory-driven. Now the device has a worldwide federal contract. That’s effectively a DLA [Defense Logistics Agency] number, which is hard to come by. It’s important because you might think you’ve invented a better mousetrap but you might not be able to sell it because you’re constrained by the federal regulatory environment: the federal agencies haven’t given you a number. Now this device is one of the relatively few that physicians can choose from that have won government approval.”

Says Ray, “The DLA places blanket contracts that anyone in the government (e.g. Sandia, FEMA, VA, DoD) can utilize. They are similar to contracts in which pricing is already established, and buyers do not need to justify the selection. The benefit to Numotech is dual: 1) anyone in a government agency can now buy the Numobag Kit without having to justify the purchase as a competitive acquisition; and 2) DLA exhaustively checked out the medical efficacy claims of THOT. Award of a contract validates claims that might otherwise be seen as marketing hype.”

The Numobag kits, produced in California, are of extruded polyethylene.

“Each is cleaned to specifications equivalent to a class 1000 clean room,” says Felton, “and the product does not outgas when used” The problem of out gassing, a potentially serious drawback, was overcome by researchers, as was the problem of bonding the throwaway pressure gauge to polyethylene, a substance that sheds adhesives.

“The sensors are simple but not easy,” said Vaughn.

The external pressure gauge developed by Vaughn and Miller tests the tension of the Numobag wall, rather than puncturing it to directly test gas pressure. Because the Sandia researchers knew that the tension of the polyethylene surface was proportional to the internal pressure of the gas, they could create a simple system that showed whether gas pressure was high, low, or just right. With this simple indicator, the pressure could by regulated by healthcare providers such as nurses.

Sandia expects to work further to produce a colorimeter that will assess the progress of wound healing, as well as a cheap device to measure the quality of wound out gassing. The device would be similar to those used to detect changes in stored nuclear weapons, says Vaughn.

The idea of the Numobag and its first tests were achieved by Madalene Heng, chief of dermatology at the VA center at Sepulveda, Calif., and professor at the University of California School of Medicine. Heng has conducted, published, and presented extensive research on wound care. While the method proved effective, it relied on her skilled presence to instruct nurses on the conditions necessary in each Numobag. Sensors created by Sandia are expected to do that job, permitting less skilled personnel in widely scattered geographic areas to use the healing device.

Dr. Glen Heywood, a professor of surgery at the Health Sciences Center at the University of New Mexico, says that he is “gearing up to try the Numobag for the most serious wound infections we deal with as surgeons ? necrotizing fasciitis. There have been studies ? some conflicting ? but the studies seem to support that topical hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be helpful. We have in New Mexico one of the highest amounts of necrotizing fasciitis, maybe because our oxygen content is lower because of our higher altitude. We are the closest clinical institution in closest proximity to Sandia, where a significant portion of the engineering research has been done. Most of the clinicians are located in California. So it seemed appropriate for us to be a test site for the technique. Our aim is to achieve an objective randomized evaluation; it’s important that we clearly compare the efficacy of the Numobag with other techniques to find which wounds this technique operates on most effectively.”

The Numobag is the third project the company has undertaken with Sandia. The others are a wheelchair seat and wheelchair back. Each use inflatable air pockets with miniaturized controls and pumps to reduce the possibility of pressure sores for quadriplegic and diabetic patients. Pressure sores are open, chronic lesions that are difficult to heal and can lead to amputation or even death.


  1. An oxygen atmosphere is extremely dangerous. The slightest spark will cause a devastating fire that will burn you to death.
    After the Apollo 1 fire killed three astronauts, NASA completely redesigned their capsules not to use an oxygen atmosphere.
    Watch this video to see how a ‘fireproof’ glove explodes when saturated with oxygen

    Apollo 1 fire:

    Death in an hyperbaric chamber.

    This is an accident waiting to happen in any oxygen-enriched chamber.

  2. My son sent me this website link because I am searching for a hyperbaric chamber I can afford to help me have a life still in spite of Lyme disease. My muddled brain is overwhelmed by the info here, but it seems to say I would need some sort of medical “prescription”? And is it actually disposable, so could not be used long-term?

  3. On the contrary, oxygen is delivered to areas where it otherwise would not access.

    The ‘basics’ of hyperbaric therapy is a necessity for deep water divers. The pressure (psi) at sea level is 14.7 psi. In the water, pressure doubles every 33 feet. Thus a 6″ diameter balloon on the surface of the water would reduce to 3″ diameter at 33 feet; where the pressure (on the body) would be 29.4 psi. Every 33 feet is referred to as ‘one atmosphere’, which is why they measure hyperbaric chamber pressure in ‘atmospheres’. The common pressure in a chamber is 2.5 atmospheres (14.7 x 2.5 = 36.75 psi) … roughly, a bit higher than the pressure in a common car tire.

    The same is true when you’re in a hyperbaric chamber. The oxygen ‘bubbles’ in your bloodstream are reduced in size when the pressure is increased to 36.75 psi. Thus making those oxygen ‘bubbles’ easier to pass through small veins & capillaries where they are generally quite restricted. That’s why they use hyperbaric therapy for eye treatment. The capillaries in the eye are quite small. When they are made smaller due to diabetes and other reasons, oxygen cannot pass through the eye – causing degradation to the overall eye. Hyperbaric therapy has tremendous success in negating blindness.

    Once it becomes more affordable, hyperbaric therapy will replace doctor visits in many cases. Many have constructed their own chambers and ‘relax’ in them while watching TV or reading a book. There are many examples one can find on the internet.


  4. Terrific work! This is the type of information that are supposed to be shared across the internet. Shame on Google for not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and visit my web site . Thank you =)

  5. Bird Medical Devices installs the first HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERAPY CHAMBER in South India in The Department of Reconstructive Microsurgery, Burns & Research at Jubilee Mission Hospital, Trichur, Kerala.
    Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy has now slowly started capturing the interest of doctors in India. A great lag has come to a pass in our country over the years as compared to the practice of Hyperbaric Medicine in the Western world and in the Orient where thousands of Hyperbaric chambers are functioning.
    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in India has been restricted to a few centers and the reasons for its non expansion to other centers may be varied. Doctors are rarely taught about hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in medical school and therefore most do not know about the benefits it renders. If physicians don’t know about a therapy, they obviously won’t prescribe it.
    Dr. Prashanth Varkey who heads South India’s first Hyperbaric unit is of the opinion that Hyperbaric Medicine is much under utilized, and if employed in well selected patients may help increase survival in many diseases. Further more, Dr.Prashanth adds that a large majority of medical doctors believe that HBOT should be restricted to treatment of those rare conditions with prior FDA approval. There are more than 30,000 published scientific papers the subject, and who advocate or use HBOT to treat patients with so-called off-label (non-FDA-approved) conditions. Opponents of such expanded utilization of HBOT should admit that they are remiss in their care of patients, they should open their minds, educate themselves further, and change their ways.
    We at Jubilee Hospital, as a group are intending not only to bring in the facility of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for wound care but also HBOT chamber system is classified as category I with the ability of taking care the critical patient 24 hours – just like a intensive care unit. Our group will also be involved in creating awareness of the scope of this treatment in areas as snake bite, septicemia, and traumatic brain injury and also in newer areas as in cancer.
    Mr.Bird, Owner at Bird Medical Devices says, that his organisation is the only dedicated company in bringing affordable Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Chambers to India and are striving hard to promote the “chamber of miracles” in India by educating the medical community.
    Cell:9769 484 123 / 9769 006 123 Email:[email protected]

  6. India. Monoplace Hyperbaric Chamber, Multiplace Hyperbaric Chambers, Portable hyperbaric chambers available at most affordable price. Ask us for specifications and Prices.
    Email: [email protected]
    Call:9769 484 123 / 9769 006 123

    While Thousands of Hyperbaric chambers are sold world wide, India has few Hyperbaric chambers. Is this due to the high cost or lack of awareness ? Medical Institutions in India do not lay emphasis on teaching hyperbaric medicine. Bird Medical devices promotes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in India.

    Approved “13” Labeled Hyperbaric Therapy Indications:

    1. Air or Gas Embolism
    2. Carbon Monoxide
    3. Clostridal Myositis & Myonecrosis (Gas Gangrene)
    4. Crush Injury
    5. Decompression Sickness and Arterial Gas Embolism
    6. Enhancement of Healing In Selected Problems Wounds
    7. Exceptional Blood Loss – Anemia
    8. Intracranial Abscess
    9. Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections
    10. Refractory Osteomyelitis
    11. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments For Complications of Radiation Therapy
    12. Skin Grafts And Flaps (Compromised)
    13. Thermal Burns

    Off Label Conditions
    Acute Acoustic Trauma,Acute and Chronic Anemia,Acute and Chronic Arterial Insufficiency,,ALS “lou Gehrig’s Disease”,Alzheimer’s Disease, autistic disorders, Candidas and Fungal Infections,Cerebral edema,Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy due to Hypoxia, Chemical Poisoning (e.g. Pesticide),Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,Closed head injury, Colitis,Crohn’s Disease,Compartmental Syndrome,Diabetes,Fibromyalgia,Flesh Eating Bacteria,Fracture Repair, Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers,Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Headaches, Cluster,Heart attack, Myocardial Ischemia, & Aid to Cardiac Surgery and Rehabilitation,Hypoxic Birth Disorders,Inflammatory Arthritis,Lupus,Lyme Disease, Macular Degeneration,Migraine,Multiple Sclerosis,Musculoskeletal injuries, Mycoplasma, Near drowning, Near hanging, Neurovascular compression, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, Peripheral nerve injury and,neuropathies, demyelination, Peripheral Vascular Disorders,Post surgical instability,Rehabilitative Care,Retintis Pigmentosa,RSD,Rheumatoid Arthritis,Sacroiliac yndrome, Scelodrema, Silicone Induced Disorders,Spinal Cord injury,Spider bite, Stroke,Sudden deafness, Surgery Healing, Pre and Post, Reconstruction and Cosmetic Surgery,Post surgical soft tissue infections,Vegetative coma,Wound Healing, Recurrent Ulcers and Infections

    Disclaimer: The information provided herein is for educational and informational purposes only and it is not to be considered medical advice. Please consult your doctor before pursuing Hyperbaric Therapies.

  7. My husband was bit by a brown recluse spider for which hyperbaric chamber treatments were perscribed. He was having two treatments per day, each treatment were 2 1/2 hours long. We just got the bill and we were charged $1785 per treatment. Wheeewwww. That’s outrageous. On the other hand, his leg healed nicely and the wound never opened up, we could see the results on his leg after the first treatment. The tissue in the leg that had hardened was soft again. While it is expensive I hightly recomment it, expecially for wounds.

  8. Really this is a great piece of information. Personal Hyperbaric Chambers are also great things to make you healthy and fit. I’d like to invite you to visit my site about Personal Hyperbaric Chambers and HBOT. Read how Tim Tebow uses HBOT Therapy to keep fit and maintain his strength. Personal Hyperbaric Chambers


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