I haven't seen this topic mentioned on this website, so I thought I would talk about it, given how helpful it was for me. For those of you who know nothing about this, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. It has been used for years to treat decompression sickness (the bends) in scuba divers, but it can also be used to treat many other conditions, one of which is radiation injury. Some of us come to this website because of long standing bowel disease; some of us, like me, because of bowel cancer. Treatment often involves radiation, and that, unfortunately, brings its own baggage. I had chemo, radiation and surgery to successfully treat a bowel tumour, but I was left with a chronic, unhealed incision where my anus used to be. Because radiation doesn't differentiate between cancer and healthy tissue, it had left me with damaged tissue that refused to heal. I had daily nursing care to try to close the incision, but, despite all the wound management techniques, it refused to close. I consulted doctor after doctor, to no avail, but when I asked for a second opinion from one of the best colorectal surgeons in the country, he said, "Oh, you're probably a good candidate for HBOT." "What the heck is that?" I asked.
So, I spent 6 weeks in HBOT at Hamilton General Hospital. Every day, I did a 2 hour "dive", as they're called. Two hours in a mono chamber, with 3 times the atmospheric pressure, and breathing pure O2. After 6 weeks, my daily nurse told me that the incision, and the tissue around it, had turned a healthy pink - it had been a zombie white before. There's only one reason tissue turns pink - it means that oxygenated blood is getting to the site. My wound had finally turned a corner. Two and a half years after my surgery, my incision finally closed. How does this happen? HBOT encourages a process called angiogenesis - a process that occurs naturally, but HBOT artificially creates the optimal conditions for it to occur. Angiogenesis is the creation of new vascular tissue (blood vessels) where it was damaged or destroyed by radiation. HBOT helps this process by delivering pure O2, but under pressure, which allows the lungs to take up more O2 than they would normally.
HBOT, I was surprised to learn, is not particularly well understood by many people, including doctors. What doesn't help, is that some unscrupulous private HBOT clinics have made claims that it can cure cancer, autism, diabetes, and many other conditions, that just isn't supported by evidence. There are several conditions that it can help, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, sudden loss of vision or hearing, diabetic ulcers, gangrene, severe anemia, and several others, including the radiation injury I mentioned. I encourage you to have a look at mayoclinic.org for a more comprehensive description of HBOT.
In Ontario, where I live, there are only 3 HBOT clinics associated with universities and hospitals - Ottawa General, Toronto General, and Hamilton General, which probably explains why so few doctors know much about it. If you don't train with the technology, chances are you won't understand or use it. I consulted 6 doctors before I was finally told about it. That is why I am posting this topic! The more people who know about this, the less likely people will suffer needlessly. The good news is that the surgeon who removed my tumour and gave me a colostomy has acknowledged that it was the HBOT that healed my stubborn incision, and she is now referring her patients to the program when needed. Yes! Conquering ignorance one doctor at a time!