Uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the 1990s
Eric P. Kindwall, MDAddress reprint requests to E.P.K., Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, 9200 West Wisconson Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53226.
Hyperbaric oxygen can produce a variety of effects in addition to reducing air and gas embolism. It increases the killing ability of leukocytes and is lethal to certain anaerobic bacteria. It inhibits toxin formation by certain anaerobes, increases the flexibility of red cells, reduces tissue edema, preserves intracellular adenosine triphosphate, maintains tissue oxygenation in the absence of hemoglobin. In addition, it stimulates fibroblast growth, increases collagen formation, promotes more rapid growth of capillaries, and terminates lipid peroxidation. These actions of hyperbaric oxygen are useful in treating anaerobic infections that result in gas gangrene, as well as severe aerobic infections such as necrotizing fasciitis, malignant external otitis, and chronic refractory osteomyelitis. Hyperbaric oxygen can help preserve ischemic tissues and facilitates the rapid spread and arborization of new capillaries. It promotes healing in certain problem wounds. Adjunctive hyperbaric oxygen treatment is a new approach to the management of radionecrosis. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment reduces morbidity and mortality resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning. Protocols for hyperbaric oxygen therapy are at present mostly empirical; much additional research is needed to better define therapeutic indications.