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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT involves the medical use of oxygen to treat patients. Oxygen is supplied at higher than normal atmospheric pressure.

Historically, HBOT was used to treat decompression sickness or “the bends” which is a painful condition that potentially occurs when a scuba diver ascends to the surface of the water to quickly causing gas bubbles to occur in the bloodstream and joints. Later, new indications such as carbon monoxide poisoning and gas gangrene, an infection with anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that avoid oxygen) were added. Increased oxygen in the tissues has also been shown to speed healing in areas of the body where reduced oxygen may be an issue such as wounds in diabetics. Topical hyperbaric oxygen, the application of high oxygen concentrations only to the affected body part has been attempted but not found to be successful as total immersion of the body in oxygen allows access to the bloodstream, specifically the plasma portion of the blood.

Recently, there has been evidence that shows that HBOT may stimulate or mobilize the release of stem cells from the bone marrow and those cells have a role in tissue regeneration.

Hyperbaric oxygen is administered by a patient laying in a sealed chamber in which high concentrations of oxygen is pumped, usually from 1.6 to 2 times normal atmospheric pressure. The treatment is repeated 3 to 5 times a week depending on the severity of wound being treated.

HBOT has been attempted for “off label” use, that is, diagnoses for which FDA approval has not be granted. Diagnoses on that list include autism, Alzheimer's Disease, Asthma, Depression, Parkinson's disease and sports injuries. Alternative/integrative medical centers may offer hyperbaric oxygen usage for such diagnoses.

Wound healing applications for HBOT originally focused on diabetic wounds because reduced blood flow may occur or diabetic peripheral angiopathy.  Indications may now be extended to a number of difficult to heal wounds or tissues to include: delayed radiation injuries, thermal (heat) burns, crush injuries, osteomyelitis and after certain surgical procedures such as skin grafts and flaps were circulation is critical to healing.

Patients who have wounds, infections or difficult to heal injuries should consult a specialist to assess the reasons why healing has not occurred or is proceeding slowly. Ed Davis, DPM routinely uses HBOT for such purposes after thorough evaluation of it's potential benefit for a patient's condition. If you would like more information or are in need of foot and ankle care, please call our San Antonio podiatry office today.

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