Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Laren Tan, MD, medical director for hyperbaric medicine at Loma Linda University Health, recently visited the set of ABC’s medical drama Grey’s Anatomy to meet with the writers and provide insight into what happens when doctors “dive” patients in hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy, a treatment where patients are subject to 100% oxygen at increased pressures.
HBO therapy is used to treat patients with a wide array of issues, including carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness and soft tissue infections.
“Hyperbaric oxygen is used to treat complex and challenging medical issues,” Tan said. “It’s exciting to see shows like Grey’s Anatomy introduce the therapy to a wider audience.”
Grey’s Anatomy has pulled storylines from some of the farthest corners of medicine, sourcing many of their storylines from real-life medical cases. The show has earned strong viewership ratings for nearly 15 years. Writers have occasionally sought insight from experts in different disciplines of medicine to ensure the procedures are presented as accurately as possible.
"While most of the cases on medical shows are based on real situations, they are often the outlier, one-in-a-million cases," Tan said.
Conditions treated by HBOT, however, are far more common and people receive the therapy daily at places like SoCal Hyperbaric Oxygen Center.
“Working with the team at ABC was an incredible experience,” Tan said. “Our hope is that someone may see the episodes and realize there’s a therapy they haven’t tried that could vastly improve their quality of life.”