A chronic wound is a disruption in the body's tissue that is most commonly associated with the loss of skin and the underlying tissue, the loss of muscle, or the loss of bone. When there is a lack of oxygen it makes it difficult for the wound to heal. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers oxygen to underoxigenated tissue. This oxygen helps get oxygen to the affected areas of the body.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes it easier to see what tissues may need to be removed, lessens the chance of infection, promotes growth of new tissue and encourages bone repair.
Wound healing is a complicated process. Many different steps need to take place in order for a complete healing process to occur. Whether the wound is hypoxic or ischemic such as diabetic wounds, venous stasis ulcers, failing grafts or flaps, necrotizing soft tissue infections or refractory osteomyelitis, two basic staples are need for healing – sufficient oxygen supply and perfusion of oxygen to the affected tissues.
Increased oxygen tension is a major controlling factor in killing bacteria, resistance to infection, collagen production, new blood vessel growth, and new skin generation. In wound with low oxygen levels, some or all of these processes are impaired.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers 15 times more oxygen than breathing normal room air. HBOT helps in the healing process by stimulating the cells which create new blood vessel (capillary) growth. These new vessels are created in the wound area, allowing for nutrient enriched blood to reach the area of the body which requires healing. Angiogenesis, or new blood vessel growth, generally occurs around 20 the twentieth HBOT treatment.
Increased oxygen is also needed in the creation of collagen and new skin growth, which are both necessary in the healing process.
In the outer areas of a wound, oxygen levels are decreased. The lack of oxygen makes these areas prime targets for bacterial growth. By increasing oxygen levels, bacteria are killed off and the body is able to stave off infection.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps in the recovery of oxygen-compromised wounds. The therapy helps revive cells in viable tissue, allowing for a more complete healing of the affected area. HBOT treatments for wound care are performed at 2.4 ATA for 90 minutes of oxygen breathing.
Information provided by Hyperbaric Medicine Practice, Second Edition Revised – Eric P. Kindwall, MD and Harry T. Whelan, MD.