Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Refractory osteomyelitis is a bone infection which has not responded to appropriate treatment. Hyperbaric oxygen increases the oxygen concentration in infected tissues, including bone. Hyperbaric oxygen directly kills or inhibits the growth of organisms which prefer low oxygen concentrations (strict anaerobes). These effects occur through the oxygen-induced production of toxic radicals or through an indirect effect medicated through the white blood cells (polymorphonuclear leukocytes).
Conversely, hyperbaric oxygen has no direct effect on organisms which prefer high oxygen concentrations (aerobes). In fact, hyperoxic conditions may induce aerobic organisms to produce increased concentrations enzymes protective against oxygen radicals (e.g. superoxide dismutase). When hyperbaric oxygen increases the oxygen tension in infected tissue, however, the oxygen-dependent killing mechanisms of the polymorphonuclear leukocyte are provided sufficient oxygen to function. Thus, hyperbaric oxygen treatment provides the necessary substrate (oxygen) for the killing of aerobic organisms by the polymorphonuclear leukocyte.
Hyperbaric oxygen also augments the efficacy of bacterial killing by certain antibiotics (aminoglycosides, vancomycin, quinolones and certain sulfonamides). Hyperbaric oxygen provides adequate oxygen for fibroblast activity, cells which promote healing in hypoxic tissues.
Finally hyperbaric oxygen prevents polymorphonuclear leukocytes from adhering to damaged blood vessel linings. This decreases the degree of inflammation which may accompany the surgical treatment of refractory osteomyelitis. Hyperbaric oxygen is used clinically for the treatment of refractory osteomyelitis as noted above. Hyperbaric oxygen is adjunctive therapy and is used with appropriate antibiotics, surgery and nutrition. There are open, patients used as there own controls and randomized clinical studies supporting the use of HBO for the treatment of refractory osteomyelitis.
- Mader JT, Guckian JC, Glass DL, Reinarz JA. Therapy with hyperbaric oxygen for experimental osteomyelitis due to Staphylococcus aureus in rabbits. J Infect Dis 1978;138:312-318.
- Mader JT, Brown GL, Guckian JC, Wells CH, Reinarz JA. A mechanism for the amelioration by hyperbaric oxygen of experimental staphylococcal osteomyelitis in rabbits. J Infect Dis 1980;142:915-922.
- Davis JC, Heckman JD, DeLee JC, Buckwold FJ. Chronic non-hematogenous osteomyelitis treated with adjuvant hyperbaric oxygen. J Bone Joint Surg 1986;68A:1210-1217.
- Mader JT, Shirtliff ME, Calhoun JH. The Use of Hyperbaric Oxygen in the Treatment of Osteomyelitis. In: Hyperbaric Medicine Practice. Best Publishing Co. Flagstaff, Arizona. 1999;603-616.
- Mader JT, Calhoun JH. Osteomyelitis. In: Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. GL Mandell, RG Douglas, JE Bennett Jr. (Eds). Churchill Livingstone, New York, NY: 5th Edition. 1999;1039-1051.
The information above is a synopsis of a more detailed description found on the UHMS website. It is presented here for educational and informative purposes. Always consult a hyperbaric physician for specific recommendations regarding any HBO therapy.