The National Cancer institute reports that 1.2 million new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed this year. Half of these patients will receive radiation therapy as part of their management; however, 5% will develop late effects of radiation.
There are two types of injury associated with radiation therapy. Acute radiation dermatitis which is a prolonged exposure to radiation resulting in redness of skin or; late effects of radiation, a less frequent but a serious complication which results in the formation of scar tissue resulting in decreased blood flow through the small vessels of the body.
Following the initial tumor radiation, capillaries degenerate. This is a progressive process which continues throughout the patient’s life. Within the field of irradiation, the blood supply and healing capacity will diminish with each passing year.
Oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) stimulates cell renewal and as treatments continue, capillary density increases up to 80% of normal capacity. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is breathing 100% oxygen while under increased atmospheric pressure. When given this treatment, the patient’s blood cells become saturated with oxygen and reduce redness and swelling causing improved blood flow through the small blood vessels.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not just for treating radiation. This therapy is FDA approved for a variety of conditions.
Conditions such as:
- Air or gas embolism
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Crash injury and compartment syndrome
- Decompression sickness
- Enhanced healing of wounds
- Blood loss anemia
- Soft tissue infection
- Skin grafts and flaps
- Thermal burns
Hyperbaric medicine (HBO) is available at most National Healing Wound Centers, and is an adjunctive therapy used to enhance the healing of certain problem wounds. Delivery of this therapy stimulates a number of physiological responses in the cells and tissues, promoting wound healing.
If you suffer from a chronic wound that hasn’t healed in 30 days or a medical conditions such as diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, bone infections, radiation skin irritations or vascular disorders resulting in poor blood circulation, your doctor may prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO).
The Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing Center at Wooster Community Hospital uses HBO to treat patients referred by a variety of medical specialists such as primary care physicians, internists, podiatrists, radiation oncologists, dentists, gynecologists, neurologists and urologists.
“HBO is used only for wounds that have not responded to traditional treatments as well as for more rare conditions such as the bends and gangrene,” explains Dr. Robert Bartlett, senior medical advisor of National Healing Corporation which advises the WCH Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing Center.
“Although patients may never have heard of it, HBO is a completely noninvasive procedure and can produce results where other treatments have failed even to the point of saving limbs from amputation,” Bartlett says.
For more information about HBO and other treatments for chronic wounds, contact the Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing Center located at Wooster Community Hospital or call 330-263-8750.