Don't listen to Tim Tebow: Hyperbaric oxygen chambers are mostly useless.
A particularly poignant potential application is the use of HBOT for autism. Cochrane has not yet trained its steely gaze on the issue, so we are left with the raw medical literature. The results are spotty at best and suggest both utility and futility. More work will need to be done before any confident statement can be made regarding this possible use.
So only the slimmest evidence supports the expensive HBOT for much of anything. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that anyone pays much attention to evidence. HBOT is just another foot soldier in the titanic struggle between those seeking objective measures of efficacy—the evidence-based movement in medicine—and the public's fondness for a faith-based view of reality, an approach that gives you the OK to ignore any evidence (global warming, evolution, losing 25 pounds in 25 days without eating less) that doesn't make you happy. After all, what chance does mere human observation have against the soaring fantasy-land edifice created by persons of strong faith who dream of a better yesterday? The current evidence would suggest none whatsoever.
Kent Sepkowitz is a physician in New York City who writes about medicine.
Photograph of a patient in a hyperbaric chamber by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.