Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: A Game-Changer for Radiation Injury

Past Member

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 tumor, 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 tumor 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!

Morning glory

Padfoot, many thanks for this information. My sister-in-law was told about this treatment last year after suffering from an open wound for five years. Unfortunately, the doctors decided that she wasn't a candidate. Thankfully, the alternative treatment is working though. I am glad that you are finally healing.

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Hey Pad. Love that statement, "Conquering Ignorance One Doctor at a Time." In the beginning post ileo, I felt like that was all I was doing! Thank you so much for that lesson regarding HBOT. I originally remember learning of it when I decided to start diving but did not understand how the process worked other than taking in all O2.


Awesome story Padfoot!! I am going to print that entire story up and use it to conquer some doctors out here. I used to hear "you are what you eat" now it's you are what you breathe. Good thread. Thanks for sharing. - Warrior


Hello Padfoot.

Thank you for drawing this to our attention. I used to take a lady with MS for HBOT and she was convinced of its healing qualities, and she did live a lot longer than lots of other people with the same condition. 

It does make a lot of sense, that what you breathe in can make a real difference to your health , as I know only too well when I figured out that air pollution was the cause of my cardiac problems.

I am so pleased to hear that you have healed and thanks for the detailed explanation of 'why'.

As for educating doctors, It has been 'interesting' over the past few years, to find that my doctors have been asking me about my conditions and how I manage them, in ways that indicate a genuine interest. Of course, I cannot be sure why this would be, but I guess it might have something to do with my writing and the fact that they might find themselves being the subject of my rhymes ( if they piss me off enough!!!).

Best wishes


Getting Support in the Ostomy Community with LeeAnne Hayden | Hollister

Hello Padfoot, first thank you for sharing. That's a lot, and I'm so sorry you have to go through this. But wonderful news, you're healing, thank God! I'm doing well, been through a lot, and sometimes I don't want to say a lot because no one will text me back. It seems no one wants to hear complaining, or they will call you a liar and a complainer, or other things. I have had a couple do this to me, and I haven't been coming in or saying too much. But anyway, I want to say how I feel, and it's a lot I'm going through, and just say how there are many here that are okay with listening. I'm one and will be listening and helping the best I can with everyone who wants to share. Just saying, hope you're having a great day!! Remember, I'm here always... Sincerely, Victoria


That is great info. HBOT has been used as wound care for years in our local hospital. Nice to see that it has many different abilities in healing. Helpful with those here that at some point need to hear this and remember it may be an option for our care.


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