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Arch Surg. 2003 Mar;138(3):272-9; discussion 280.

Hyperbaric oxygen for treating wounds: a systematic review of the literature.

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Division of Clinical Care Research, New England Medical Center, Boston, MA 02111, USA.



To determine whether hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy is an effective adjunct treatment for hypoxic wounds.


We identified studies from technology assessment reports on HBO and a MEDLINE search from mid-1998 to August 2001. We accepted randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohorts, and case series that reported original data, included at least 5 patients, evaluated the use of HBO for wound care, and reported clinical outcomes. Demographics, wound conditions, HBO regimen, adverse events, and major clinical outcomes were extracted from each study.


Fifty-seven studies, 7 RCTs, 16 nonrandomized studies, and 34 case series involving more than 2000 patients are included in this review. None of the studies used wound tissue hypoxia as a patient inclusion criterion. The study results suggest that HBO may be beneficial as an adjunctive therapy for chronic nonhealing diabetic wounds, compromised skin grafts, osteoradionecrosis, soft tissue radionecrosis, and gas gangrene compared with standard wound care alone. Serious adverse events associated with HBO include seizures and pressure-related traumas, such as pneumothorax. A few deaths in the studies were associated with these adverse events.


The overall study quality is poor, with inadequate or no controls in most studies. The studies suggest that HBO may be helpful for some wounds, but there is insufficient evidence to ascertain the appropriate time to initiate therapy and to establish criteria that determine whether patients will benefit. Serious adverse events may occur. High-quality RCTs that evaluate the short- and long-term risks and benefits of HBO are necessary to better inform clinical decisions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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