Hyperbaric medicine is a treatment modality that applies high pressure oxygen to treat various ailments of the body. Recently, hyperbaric medicine has been gaining notice for its use as an additive therapy for a wide variety of ailments from decompression sickness to non-healing wounds. With new treatment options on the horizon, like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the road to recovery could arrive sooner.
What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment?
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment works by placing the patient in a highly pressurized environment (more than 1.4 times the atmospheric pressure) with 100 percent oxygen. These environments allow oxygen to penetrate body tissues and oxygenate parts of the body which may require more oxygen.
What Are The Benefits?
The human body requires oxygen to heal and maintain bodily tissues. Some of these bodily functions include destroying bacteria, prevent death of tissue and even restore blood supply to organs. As you might imagine, this holds promise for conditions where oxygen deprivation is a serious concern, of which there are many:
Many bacteria are unable to survive in highly oxygenated environments. In cases where you may be infected with these types of “anaerobic” bacteria, it is possible to reduce and fight the infection. Well documented studies have proven that oxygen therapy reduced mortality rates and reduced infection in people suffering from these types of bacteria.
Reperfusion injuries is tissue damage that occurs when blood supply is cut off or arrested to any tissue or organ. One well known type of reperfusion injury is the myocardial infaction, otherwise known as a heart attack. Studies show that hyperbaric oxygenation improves the functioning and repair of heart tissue after such attacks. In fact, one study found that hyperbaric oxygen treatment even helped to restore function to the heart after a sudden heart attack.
Even more remarkably, in a 2003 study, hyperbaric oxygen therapy was used to speed up the healing process in liver transplant surgeries. Liver function returned faster than normal in the recipients and were able to return to normal without significant side effects.
The benefits don’t stop at restoring organ function. Many patients who received hyperbaric therapy as an additive to regular treatment for foot ulcers showed dramatic improvement and reduced the chances of amputation. This is a boon to diabetic patients who regularly suffer from non-healing wounds.
Compromised Flaps and Grafts
According to guidelines from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also be used to help with compromised flaps and graft treatment. For instance, some wounds that require grafts in order to heal may not be ready until a certain amount of healing has occurred. Additionally, blood supply to the new graft would need to be established. For these reasons, a hyperbaric physician may consider using this therapy to augment growth and healing.
What Conditions Does It Help?
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been proven to benefit many conditions as mentioned previously. Fortunately the list of conditions this therapy could potentially benefit is long. Below is a list of conditions that hyperbaric oxygen therapy could benefit:
- Problem wounds due to arterial insufficiency
- Delayed radiation injury
- Skin grafts
- Muscular necrosis (gas gangrene)
- Crush injury
- Air embolisms
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Decompression sickness
- And more…
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a boon to those who need additional support for life threatening illnesses, however it may not be for everyone. Always talk about new treatment options with your treating physician.