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Patient Education - Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Soft Tissue Radiation Injury

Patient Education - Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Soft Tissue Radiation Injury

Patient Education - Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Soft Tissue Radiation Injury

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment in which the patient breathes pure oxygen under pressure. It is administered in a chamber and is the treatment for many medical and surgical conditions. It is usually part of an overall plan of care which may involve surgery, antibiotics or other therapy, but for certain conditions it may be the main treatment.

How does HBOT work?

During hyperbaric oxygen therapy, 100% oxygen is delivered in a closed chamber, and air pressure is increased to as much as 3 times normal. This causes a dramatic increase in oxygen taken in by the lungs which is then transferred to the blood.  The blood then transports the oxygen to all parts of the body. The oxygen-rich blood helps improve healing and controls infection in certain conditions.

How does HBOT help heal my soft tissue radiation injury (STRI)?

Radiation treatment for cancer targets and destroys cancer cells but can also injure healthy tissue, muscles, and organs near the cancer. Soft tissue radiation injury can occur between 2 weeks to 20 years after radiation treatment.

All tissues in the body need oxygen to function. Increased amounts are required to heal injured areas. Radiation can damage blood vessels and lead to scarring and narrowing.  This narrowing causes low blood flow and oxygen delivery to the injured tissue. Without oxygen-rich blood, injured tissue will not heal.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven to be beneficial with this condition by delivering more oxygen to the injured tissue. HBOT also assists with healing by:
  • Reducing scarring within blood vessels
  • Stimulating new blood vessel growth
  • Preventing poor healing at surgery sites in areas that have received radiation
Figure 1. Effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on soft tissue radiation necrosis. Picture by Wong A.K, M.D.

What should I expect with HBOT for my STRI?

  • The number of hyperbaric treatments is determined by the complexity of the soft tissue radiation injury.  
  • The average number of HBOT treatments for STRI is 40 times and is scheduled daily. 
  • You will follow up with your referring healthcare professional after 40 treatments, and together with the hyperbaric provider, the decision may be made to continue up to 60 treatments.
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NOTE: This is a controlled document. This document is not a substitute for proper training, experience, and exercising of professional judgment. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, neither the authors nor the Wound Reference, Inc. give any guarantee as to the accuracy of the information contained in them nor accept any liability, with respect to loss, damage, injury or expense arising from any such errors or omissions in the contents of the work.
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