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9th January 2007

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

A new innovation in equine medicine appears to be one of the most promising new technologies to cross over from human medicine.

This new innovation is known as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and is a successful new treatment for selected problems in horses.

Used successfully to treat humans since the 1970’s, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been proven to be effective in conditions where diminished circulation or decreased oxygen supply compromise healing. In horses, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used effectively in applications such as alleviating circulatory problems, resolving anaerobic and aerobic infections, healing difficult wounds and fractures, reducing potentially fatal complications of colic surgery, and treating foals suffering from birth asphyxia.

Many significant medical problems that exist in the horse result in prolonged disability or eventual humane destruction. While not a magic bullet or cure-all, use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as supportive care makes sense in certain situations to heighten the success of surgical and medical treatment.

By far, wounds and bone infections remain the most common problems treated in the hyperbaric chamber. These are conditions where exposure to hyperbaric oxygen can:

Help raise tissue oxygen levels in comprised skin and connective tissue, as well as bone.

Enhance white blood cell killing of bacteria.

Enhance antibiotic function in inflamed tissues where there are areas of low oxygen tension.

Stimulate the repair process (in both skin and bone).

The basic physiology of hyperbaric oxygen makes it useful for a variety of injuries and infections. Areas currently being explored include treatment of equine patients after surgery for colon torsion, healing of traumatic burns and other wounds, and resolving tendon sheath infections.