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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Physiology of Deep-Sea Diving and Other Hyperbaric Conditions

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The intense oxidizing properties of high-pressure oxygen (hyperbaric oxygen) can have valuable therapeutic effects in several important clinical conditions.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

The intense oxidizing properties of high-pressure oxygen (hyperbaric oxygen) can have valuable therapeutic effects in several important clinical conditions. Therefore, large pressure tanks are now available in many medical centers into which patients can be placed and treated with hyperbaric oxygen. The oxygen is usually administered at PO2s of 2 to 3 atmospheres of pressure through a mask or intra-tracheal tube, whereas the gas around the body is normal air compressed to the same high-pressure level.

It is believed that the same oxidizing free radicals responsible for oxygen toxicity are also responsible for at least some of the therapeutic benefits. Some of the conditions in which hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been especially beneficial follow.

Probably the most successful use of hyperbaric oxygen has been for treatment of gas gangrene. The bacteria that cause this condition, clostridial organ-isms, grow best under anaerobic conditions andstop growing at oxygen pressures greater than about 70 mm Hg. Therefore, hyperbaric oxygenation of the tissues can frequently stop the infectious process entirely and thus convert a condition that formerly was almost 100 per cent fatal into one that is cured in most instances by early treatment with hyperbaric therapy.

Other conditions in which hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been either valuable or possibly valuable include decompression sickness, arterial gas embolism, carbon monoxide poisoning, osteomyelitis, and myocardial infarction.


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