In the treatment of necrotizing fasciitis, hyperbaric oxygen inhibits bacteria from replicating, spreading, and releasing damaging toxins. It may also boost the effect of antibiotics, enhance the body’s natural defenses against flesh-eating bacteria, and help resolve or delay the onset of sepsis, a deadly blood poisoning. From the commentary section of our necrotizing infections page:
Hyperbaric oxygen can be a potent bactericide and also treats the hypoxia at the root of soft tissue necrosis. One analysis [Undersea Hyperb. Med. 2005 Nov-Dec; 32(6):437-43] showed significantly fewer deaths and amputations with HBOT. As the [UHMS] writeup concludes: “With such strong case series evidence of reductions in morbidity and mortality for necrotizing fasciitis and the subset of Fournier's Gangrene, it is difficult to envision ever seeing a controlled, double-blinded study of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” In other words, considering the deadly seriousness of necrotizing infection and the demonstrated effectiveness of HBOT, withholding treatment from a control group for comparative study would not be medically or ethically acceptable. As antibiotics and other traditional weapons against these worrisome microscopic invaders begin to weaken, HBOT provides a vital backstop.
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