Certified scuba divers are familiar with the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for decompression sickness treatment.
However, in the past 50 years, researchers have revealed HBOT’s broad applications to human physiology and medicine. The outlook for HBOT applications for treating wounds, neurological diseases, and even certain cancers appears promising. What once seemed relevant only for scuba divers has now been discovered to benefit members of the general population.
HBOT involves the administration of pure, 100% oxygen in a compression chamber at pressures above atmospheric levels. The resultant increase of oxygen content in blood yields a broad variety of physiological effects, because increased pressure allows oxygen to saturate more effectively in the body. For scuba divers, this increased oxygen pressure reduces the volume of inert-gas bubbles in blood vessels, reversing air embolism or decompression sickness (Danesh-Sani et al. 2012). Moreover, researchers have described several beneficial influences of HBOT on healing damaged tissues: increased white blood cell activity, reduced swelling, healing time reduction, tissue regeneration, and even synergistic activity with antibiotics (Stru?yna et al. 2008). The Undersea Hyperbaric Medicine Society recommends many applications for HBOT that have proven successful (Table 1). Beyond these now standard uses, several novel research areas demonstrate further beneficial HBOT applications. HBOT applications to wounds, cancers, and neurological and vascular diseases will be discussed below.
Low oxygen content caused by swelling or burns reduces PH and prohibits wound healing. On the other hand, higher oxygen tension improves healing of wounds by stimulating tissue-forming cells (Danesh-Sani et al. 2012). Hyperbaric oxygenation of wounds thus initiates wound-healing events such as tissue and cell generation and resistance to infection (Shah 2010). Furthermore, oxygen helps fight against infections by killing bacteria that cannot tolerate oxygen (Youn 2001). For example, in treating injuries as common as burns, HBOT reduces healing time and number of infections (Stru?yna et al. 2008).
Cholesterol Crystal Embolism (CCE)
Such benefits also apply to patients of cholesterol crystal embolism (CCE), a disease with a high mortality rate. In a case study of a 56-year-old man who developed CCE and who had already undergone an unsuccessful standard treatment, HBOT caused rapid improvement. As seen in Fig. 1, after two months, complete recovery was obtained, leading the authors to conclude that HBOT may serve as an effective treatment in CCE (Gurgo et al., 2011).
Another known application for HBOT is with bone healing, during which HBOT increases white blood cell activity and tissue formation (Danesh-Sani et al. 2012). Also, HBOT may induce the formation of new blood vessels by stimulating an increase of stem cells within the tissues (Shah 2010). An application of bone-healing effects regards the influence of HBOT on bone tissue after the cessation of smoking. Smoking has proven to delay bone healing and impair blood circulation; however, HBOT mitigates the effects of smoking on bone healing, now proving that bone damage caused by smoking may be reversible (Yen et al. 2008).
via Scientific American – Jim Haw
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