Hyperbaric Environment: Oxygen and Cellular Damage versus Protection

Compr Physiol. 2016 Dec 6;7(1):213-234. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c150032.


The elevation of tissue pO2 induced by hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) is a physiological stimulus that elicits a variety of cellular responses. These effects are largely mediated by, or in response to, an increase in the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS). The major consequences of elevated RONS include increased oxidative stress and enhanced antioxidant capacity, and modulation of redox-sensitive cell signaling pathways. Interestingly, these phenomena underlie both the therapeutic and potentially toxic effects of HBO. Emerging evidence indicates that supporting mitochondrial health is a potential method of enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of, and preventing oxygen toxicity during, HBO. This review will focus on the cellular consequences of HBO, and explore how these processes mediate a delicate balance of cellular protection versus damage. © 2017 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 7:213-234, 2017.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Humans
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Oxygen / toxicity


  • Oxygen