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J Surg Res. 2012 Sep;177(1):146-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2012.03.016. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in necrotizing soft tissue infections.

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University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



Surgical debridement and antibiotics are the mainstays of therapy for patients with necrotizing soft tissue infections (NSTIs), but hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) is often used as an adjunctive measure. Despite this, the efficacy of HBO remains unclear. We hypothesized that HBO would have no effect on mortality or amputation rates.


We performed a retrospective analysis of our institutional experience from 2005 to 2009. Inclusion criteria were age > 18 y and discharge diagnosis of NSTI. We abstracted baseline demographics, physiology, laboratory values, and operative course from the medical record. The primary endpoint was in-hospital mortality; the secondary endpoint was extremity amputation rate. We compared baseline variables using Mann-Whitney, chi-square, and Fisher's exact test, as appropriate. Significance was set at P < 0.05.


We identified 80 cases over the study period. The cohort was 54% male (n = 43) and 53% white (n = 43), and had a mean age of 55 ± 16 y. There were no significant differences in demographics, physiology, or comorbidities between groups. In-hospital mortality was not different between groups (16% in the HBO group versus 19% in the non-HBO group; P = 0.77). In patients with extremity NSTI, the amputation rate did not differ significantly between patients who did not receive HBO and those who did (17% versus 25%; P = 0.46).


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy does not appear to decrease in-hospital mortality or amputation rate after in patients with NSTI. There may be a role for HBO in treatment of NSTI; nevertheless, consideration of HBO should never delay operative therapy. Further evidence of efficacy is necessary before HBO can be considered the standard of care in NSTI.

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