What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the delivery of 100% oxygen under pressure. HBOT has rapidly grown from being used only in the treatment of SCUBA divers with decompression illness (“the bends”) to a large number of clinical applications throughout the world. There are now thousands of healing centers in the United States utilizing HBOT as adjunctive therapy for varying disorders and health insurance companies are paying for these treatments. Basic scientific and clinical studies have been published documenting the benefits of HBOT in humans and in animals.
Physiological Effects of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
At the pressures used in the hyperbaric chamber, the veterinary patient’s plasma and tissue oxygen level is 15 times greater than is normally present with 100 percent oxygen at sea level. With HBOT, oxygen diffuses through tissues even when blood supply to the area is significantly compromised. When there are constricted or compromised vessels, plasma tends to flow through more readily than red blood cells, which normally carry the oxygenated blood. When plasma is exposed to hyperbaric oxygen it can carry up to 20 times more oxygen to tissues alone without the red blood cells being involved. Therefore, small compromised capillaries can deliver oxygen to the tissues they supply even when only plasma can pass through them. Therefore, oxygen delivered by HBOT can make the difference between cell death or cell recovery.
Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
There are more than 15 disease conditions approved by the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine and the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society for which HBOT is known to be of benefit in humans. The use of HBOT in these conditions has been proven to be very effective and insurance companies for humans generally pay for these HBOT indications.
Research studies have shown the benefit of HBOT treatment even beyond what is approved by the insurance companies. Many of these conditions also occur in veterinary patients as well. There are over 50 of these “unapproved indications or conditions” where HBOT may have significant benefit as an adjunct to conventional therapy and have been proven to be beneficial during experimental trials. The following is a list of some conditions in veterinary medicine currently being treated with HBOT often in addition to conventional therapies:
- Wound healing – large wounds that would take months to heal can heal much more rapidly and cleanly – saving money and lives
- Abscesses – oxygen and antibiotic penetration into areas otherwise poorly penetrable.
- Fractures – post fracture pain, swelling and infection are helped as well as fibroblast stimulation and healing.
- Thermal Burns – healing is improved, infection diminished, increased survival rates overall for burn victims is proven.
- Skin grafts and flaps – flaps and grafts heal better and take better without infection or excessive inflammation.
- Neovascularization and decreased inflammation are tremendous help in healing.
- Spider bites – initial swelling and necrosis does not occur or reverses rapidly with HBOT intervention.
- Osteomyelitis – proven improved fibroblast function, antibiotic levels in bone and healing.
- Poisonings (carbon monoxide, cyanide etc.) – Oxygen quickly replaces CO and other noxious gasses. A common use in human ER’s.
- Lyme Disease – the organism cannot survive the hyperbaric environment
- Hepatic, renal and bowel inflammation – post-operative inflammation of bowel, post-bloat or post-obstruction occurs and diminishes chances of sepsis and decreases effusion. Decreases repercussion injury
- Pain management– swelling decreases, oxygenation improves, enhances function of some pain medications.
- Post intervertebral disc herniation especially with “no deep pain” sensation– patients not deemed surgical candidates or patients who cannot afford surgery or did not respond well to surgery are helped tremendously.
- Pancreatitis, particularly when associated with severe edema and hemorrhage – reduction in pain, swelling of pancreas and improved healing.
- Abdominal sepsis, particularly when associated with mixed bacterial infection: decreased inflammation, improved penetration of antibiotics to all areas of bowel and within peritoneal fluid, improved healing.
- Brain and spinal cord edema and injury or compression and Degenerative myelopathy– marked edema reduction returns patients to consciousness and can reverse damage to brain and cord quickly. These are some of the most dramatic results we see.
- Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME) symptoms reverse due to decreased inflammation without concurrent medications.
- Pyothorax, particularly when associated with mixed bacterial infection – same as peritonitis
- Post traumatic or ischemic shock or any acute hypoxic episodes
- Post CPR neurological impairment
- Severe sinusitis or septic rhinitis – antibiotic delivery improves, inflammation goes down, pain is reduced
- Aortic embolization in both cats and dogs– pure oxygen delivery and decreased reperfusion injury
- Stroke in the dog and cat (true stroke vs FCE both respond)
- Cardiac disease where ischemia is present and Post traumatic and reperfusion myocardial injury
- Increase in the body’s inherent stem cell production: many applications for the future
- And much more!!!!
HBOT & Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine
In the last five years HBOT has had an increased positive presence in veterinary medicine with many phenomenal results being observed and documented. There is no question that the addition of this treatment modality will enhance our ability to successfully treat many disease conditions. New uses involving stem cells are also arising.
Currently there are only a handful of veterinary hospitals in the U.S. that offer HBOT treatment for small animals and in most of these centers the chamber is primarily used for wound related indications. Working with you and your cases, we can now offer your patients an option we have not offered in the past. We need to work together on these cases, as HBOT is often adjunctive therapy. Once you see the results, you will truly understand.