All about Gas Gangrene Treatment with Oxygen Hyperbaric Therapy

Gas Gangrene Treatment

Gas gangrene is the life threatening swelling of the muscle tissue that is caused by anaerobic bacteria. It is actually the deadly form of tissue death. It is characterized by inflammation of the infected site, pale to brownish red and very painful tissue swelling. For close to 5 decades now, the treatment of this infection has using the oxygen therapy as in gas gangrene hyperbaric oxygen therapy has remained a controversial issue. But, there are some interesting points to take not of regarding the therapy. The main reason behind the controversy is because there are only few patients who suffer the condition so it is not as easy to research. At the same time, there are not readily available research studies that are well designed which could be used for comparison purposes.

But, it is encouraging to note that there have been increased chances of survival for the patients with gas gangrene infection who have combined the hyperbaric oxygen therapy with the usual surgery and antibiotics treatment. The benefits that these patients enjoyed are two fold. The oxygen therapy in itself is life saving. It is life saving because it results in the halted production of exotoxin meaning the severe patients would not need heroic surgery. The same therapy would also protect the patient from amputation. Thus, it is said to aid in limb and tissue saving. These two reasons have actually made the hyperbaric oxygen therapy an important adjunct to the surgery and antimicrobial therapy for the gas gangrene patients.

Still, it is necessary to mention some of the risks of effects that may come as a result of gas gangrene and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. There could be pressure related trauma, oxygen toxicity, claustrophobia and maybe self limitation that would be resolved once the therapy is terminated. The challenge with this infection is its severity. It progresses real fast through replication and mitigation and the organisms that cause it produce the poison exotoxins.

The poison exotoxins is what enhances the spread of the infection. The poison would liquefy adjacent tissues and inhibit local defense mechanisms which cause virulent infection. One form of gas gangrene is clostridial myonecrosis which can either be endogenous or exogenous. It comes as a result of soft tissue injuries after accident. For this, it is recommended that the hyperbaric oxygen is included in the surgery and antibiotics treatment.

The gas gangrene therapy with hyperbaric oxygen therapy is most recommended because the infection is caused by anaerobic, spore forming, gram positive, encapsulated bacilli of genus clostridium. Clostridium is not a strict anaerobe and thus it can freely grow in oxygen tension. For the clostridial myonecrosis gas gangrene to form, there must be clostridial spores and the area must also have low oxidation. Low oxidation can come about as a result of circulatory failure in the local area or even as a result of extensive soft tissue damage and necrotic muscle tissue.

Therefore, when you use the oxygen therapy, you will not make it possible for the infection to survive and develop. There will be increased supply of oxygen and as already described; the existence of clostridium depends on low supply of oxygen.


"Love it! "This is the kind of educational tool needed for hyperbaric, covers the entire process in a systematic fashion that can only improve your skill set"! "

- Tim Mayhugh LPN, CHT, CHWS

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