Already in the 17th century, it was discovered that the healing process can be positively affected by changing the air pressure. In 1662, a British physician and priest Henshaw first used the compressed air in treatment of a pulmonary disease. His first chamber was called “Domicilium”. The pressure in the chamber could be increased or decreased by using a system of organ bellows and valves. Oxygen was discovered independently by Swedish pharmacist Karl W. Scheele in 1772; and an English amateur chemist Joseph Priestley in August 1774. In 1783, the French physician Caillens was allegedly the first doctor that used oxygen therapy.

In the 19th century, hyperbaric chambers, which served as pressurized air baths, became highly popular. In 1834, hyperbaric chamber was built in France and it brought about the fashion wave of hyperbaric medicine. Exposures in the hyperbaric chamber were recommended to increase the activity of internal organs, improve blood flow to the brain and create a sense of well-being.  A lot of people travel to France to try this new therapy. The first portable hyperbaric chamber was developed in 1877 and in 1891 the U.S. doctors have begun using the hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat neurological disorders.

The 20th century marks the beginning of oxygen therapy use in practice. Dutchman J. Boerem is considered the founder of modern hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In the experiments carried out from 1956 he proved that hyperbaric oxygen can saturate the blood plasma with enough of oxygen so that the physical transport of dissolved oxygen in the plasma is sufficient to maintain life of almost bled out experimental animals. His experiments are described in his book, “Life without Blood”, published in 1960.

This study introduced the medical world to opportunities of maintaining the life without haemoglobin by inhalation of hyperbaric oxygen and has become a cornerstone of the history of modern hyperbaric medicine.

In the 1960s, the oxygen therapy becomes part of the practice as its effect is proved in the treatment of gas gangrene and carbon monoxide poisoning. The first international congress on hyperbaric medicine took place in Amsterdam in 1963. Even in the former Czechoslovakia, a multisite chamber was put into operation in 1965, built according to Professor’s Boerem design. Gradually, the oxygen therapy begins to be used in wider areas. It experiences a renaissance during the 1970s, when the options of oxygen therapy begin to be profoundly examined. The International Hyperbaric Society is founded in 1988.


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