Conditions Treated with HBO
Air Embolism (the Bends)
Embolisms, in which air bubbles enter a vein or artery and block it, can occur during surgery. HBO therapy compresses the bubbles. This reduces their size and reestablishes uninterrupted circulation.
HBO therapy can be used for patients in whom blood transfusions are not an option. This therapy can be used to maximize the oxygen-carrying capabilities of blood. The high pressure of the HBO chamber forces oxygen into the plasma, or fluid component of the blood. This allows oxygen levels in the body to be maintained even when red blood cells are in short supply.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When a patient inhales a lethal amount of carbon monoxide, it travels directly into the tissues where it attached to and alters proteins. These alterations do not become toxic until the tissues have an inadequate supply of oxygen. Administering oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure does not stop this process. However, HBO therapy at pressures greater than 2 atmospheres stops cell deterioration.
Compromised Skin Grafts and Flaps
Though most tissue flaps and grafts heal without HBO therapy, when a flap loses oxygen it is in danger of becoming unsalvageable. HBO can often sustain the flap until the blood flow can be restored. HBO therapy can also significantly increase new capillary growth after surgery.
Diabetic Ulcers and Hard-To-Heal Wounds
HBO therapy can stimulate capillary growth and increase white blood cells’ capacity to kill bacteria. This makes it an effective aid in treating diabetic ulcers and other hard-to-heal wounds. People with diabetes are especially susceptible to these ulcers due to poor circulation, low oxygen levels in the bloodstream, and rigidity of the blood cells. HBO therapy also increases glucose and reduces lactose levels, making blood cells more flexible. This increases blood vessels in the body’s extremities.
This disease is caused by a loss of blood, which results in dead tissue accompanied by gas bubbles infected by bacteria. These bacteria, which thrive in the absence of oxygen, produce toxins that multiply within the tissues of the body. HBO therapy prevents the production of these toxins, controls and stabilizes the infection, and reduces the need for immediate surgery.
HBO therapy can speed the healing process of chronic bone infections and may reduce the chance of re-infection. It is used along with a comprehensive routine of cleansing, isolation of the infection, bone and muscle grafting, and antibiotics.
Radionecrosis (Radiation Therapy Burns)
Radiation therapy burns can be treated with HBO therapy. Typically when the body is wounded, blood is cut off abruptly, creating a sudden drop in oxygen pressure and sending a message to the brain to send healing agents and infection fighters. But radiation damage is gradual and focused on the center of the area being treated, therefore the oxygen pressure does not drop abruptly and a message is not sent to send aid to the wound area. During HBO therapy, the oxygen pressure is increased by more than 10 times, which triggers the brain to recognize a sudden decline in pressure at the wound site and direct aid to the site.
Soft Tissue Infections
HBO therapy can be used to fight infection from bacteria that need oxygen to survive. When oxygen levels are lower than normal due to poor circulation, white blood cells are not strong enough to kill bacteria with an “explosion” of oxygen. HBO restores oxygen to the normal level and “super charges” white blood cells by delivering oxygen under greater than normal pressure.
Traumatic Crush Injury
HBO therapy can send oxygen to greater volumes of tissue and promote new cell growth when a patient has experienced a traumatic crush injury. Although a surgeon can repair large blood vessels, crushed capillaries cannot be fixed. The affected area may swell, limiting circulation even further, so it is very important that crush injury patients receive HBO therapy early, perhaps even before surgery is scheduled.