Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Burns

by Rashmi Gulati, MD
Rashmi Gulati Head Shot

Serious burns caused by chemicals or electricity, as well as by fire, can be among the most painful of injuries, and among the most difficult to treat. Long-term physical and emotional disabilities can occur in burn victims as a result of tissue scarring. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help burn patients heal faster with fewer complications and less scarring.

Peak damage occurs within three to four days after the initial burn, amplifying the injury from the initial burn. These injuries can result in lifelong difficulties, physical limitations, and significant disfigurement, long after the body heals from the injury.

Adjunctive hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to limit the progression of the burn injury, reducing swelling, and diminish lung damage. In some cases, HBOT reduces the need for surgical intervention and shortens the time of hospitalization. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be carried out at private facilities following hospitalization, or when hospitalization is not indicated.

Oxygen is very important to wound healing. In order for a burn to heal properly, it is important for the burned area to develop new tissue cover quickly. Progenitor cells from bone marrow are induced to migrate into the wound and lay down collagen in the formation of new tissue by hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Hyperbaric therapy also promotes new capillary growth in the fibrous collagen matrix of new tissue. Wound healing is a dynamic process, and an adequate oxygen tension is mandatory for this process to proceed successfully.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy inhibits wound infection by helping to support the body's infection-fighting white blood cells, and by helping to increase the effectiveness of any antibiotics that are used when an infection occurs.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy aids the survival of skin grafts and flaps when it is necessary to use them in more severe burns.

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