Doctor of Medicine

If you’re an athlete or a cancer patient, you’re probably familiar with hyperbaric therapy. If you’re not, you should be. It’s a treatment option for people suffering from different conditions, including sports injuries and radiation necrosis.

Hyperbaric therapy offers 100 percent oxygen at an elevated atmospheric pressure. (Disclaimer: This is not the same as the oxygen therapy offered in beauty spas as atmospheric pressure cannot be increased simply by administering oxygen through a nasal cannula.)

Hyperbaric Therapy: Basic Information

The air pressure inside a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber can increase up to 250 percent compared to normal atmospheric pressure. This added pressure helps ensure that oxygen is delivered more efficiently to different parts of the body.

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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often used for radiation injury. It helps by increasing oxygen delivery, air pressure, or both. It is also useful in the following conditions.

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used to treat air embolism. When a pocket of air is present in blood vessels, blood clots can form. The pocket of air is “dissolved” if overall pressure is increased.
  • Decompression sickness may require hyperbaric therapy as well. The rationale behind hyperbaric therapy for decompression injury is similar to that for air embolism.

Evidence Supporting Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Radiation Necrosis

Different studies have been performed to determine the value of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in treating and preventing radiation necrosis. Several of the studies published in medical journals are mentioned below.

  • According to a review of literature on hyperbaric oxygen treatment for gynecologic cancer, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used in treating bladder necrosis, and cystitis that are due to previous radiation therapy. These types of delayed radiation injury are common, occurring in about one out of every four people with gynecologic cancer who have undergone radiation therapy in the past.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is also useful in radiation injury among people with head and neck tumors. However, in this study, caution was suggested in the use of this treatment for recurrent tumors. Waiting up to nine months after conventional cancer treatment – hopefully longer – before administering hyperbaric oxygen can help prevent recurrence.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment, just like any other medical procedure, can come with side effects. If you are thinking of undergoing hyperbaric oxygen treatment, always ask your doctor for advice. Your physician can help you weigh the risks versus the benefits to help you make an informed decision about your health.

Dr. Stef dela Cruz writes about health and cancer for different online and print publications. She has a cat but is a self-confessed dog person. Check her out on her health website and connect with her on Facebook.



Stef dela Cruz is a doctor-columnist who received the Dean Bacala Academic Excellence Award from the University of Santo Tomas and the Health Media Award from the Department of Health. She is the human of three cats and a dog. Stalk her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – she won’t sue.

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