Osteomyelitis is essentially a type of infection that affects the bones. While extremely rare, it is a serious condition that could have potentially devastating effects on the lives of patients. This condition can be caused when infection in one part of the body reaches the bones through the bloodstream. Surgeries and fractures could also expose bones to infection.
The bacteria which typically cause osteomyelitis is known as the Staphylococcus aureus. It is usually found on human skin and in the upper respiratory tract. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and other such chronic conditions have also been known to cause osteomyelitis in patients. In adults, osteomyelitis can be both acute and chronic, although it is usually acute in children.
Symptoms and Causes of Osteomyelitis
Often, doctors and medical professionals recommend the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT for the purpose of treating osteomyelitis. Usually, hyperbaric therapy is prescribed as an adjunctive treatment option to be used alongside traditional medical interventions and treatment methods.
If acute or chronic osteomyelitis can not be managed with the help of traditional interventions alone, then hyperbaric therapy is prescribed to enhance benefits or speed up the course of treatment. This typically happens in the case of refractory osteomyelitis, which is seen largely in patients whose overall health and immunity have been severely compromised.
Refractory osteomyelitis might cause non-healing wounds, infections, sinus tracts, and related issues. In the most serious cases, these symptoms might even lead to amputation and permanent disability for patients. Over the years, medical professionals have found that patients who undergo hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis are much less at risk of such problems than those who do not.
Hyperbaric Therapy For Osteomyelitis
According to a study conducted in Florida, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) helps patients by enhancing the oxygen availability and tension in the infected bone to normal or above-normal levels.
An adequate concentration of oxygen is needed for proper polymorphonuclear (PMN) functioning, which in turn helps control the symptoms of osteomyelitis. Therefore, by helping boost this mechanism with the elevated supply of oxygen, HBOT indirectly expedites the recovery process in even the most serious patients.
Hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis is also used to help support and promote the osteoclast function, a unique mechanism that can speed up the recovery process. The necrotic bone is re-absorbed by osteoclasts through a process that requires significant quantities of oxygen. This resorption, as demonstrated through animal models, can minimize the damage caused by osteomyelitis.
Moreover, another benefit of availing hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis is that the excess oxygen supply facilitates the penetration and absorption of antibiotics and other drugs. HBOT also helps blunt the inflammatory response and control its symptoms, which provides relief to those suffering from acute infections in their bones. Neurovascularization, or the natural formation of new blood vessels, is another benefit of HBOT that can help treat the bone infection.
Various animal tests have generated positive results vis-à-vis the use of hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis. However, because osteomyelitis can present in so many different ways, clinical studies might sometimes yield contradictory results as comparisons are often hard to make between the symptoms of different patients.
This problem is further compounded by the rarity of the disease, which leads to extremely small study sizes for clinical trials. However, keeping all currently available scientific evidence in mind, the benefits of hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis in humans, be it chronic, refractory, or acute, cannot be denied.
Malignant otitis externa, a subset of osteomyelitis, merits special attention due to the progressive and potentially fatal nature of the disease. A type of progressive pseudomonal osteomyelitis, this disease affects the ear canal and can spread quickly to the base of the skull if left untreated. At this stage, the condition can become quickly fatal and almost impossible to treat.
However, studies have shown that hyperbaric therapy sessions can help with this problem, with patients showing dramatic improvements after a period of sustained therapeutic intervention. In these cases, HBOT was used as an addition to standard antibiotic therapy and surgical debridement.
Hyperbaric therapy involves the administration of pure, pressurized oxygen inside a sealed vessel known as the hyperbaric chamber. Over the years, this treatment option has been prescribed by physicians to treat a number of health conditions including diabetic foot ulcers and decompression sickness in divers.
The benefits of hyperbaric therapy for osteomyelitis have only recently come to the notice of the medical community. Over the years, more and more doctors have been prescribing HBOT interventions to help patients recover from this debilitating health condition.