Bones are complex tissues, and bone growth and healing are multifaceted processes. Doctors face a number of challenges when trying to treat bone fractures because of these complexities and internal and external factors that interfere with them.
However, scientific research and day-to-day clinical experience have demonstrated the efficacy of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to help aid healing for broken bones, diseased bones and maintaining general bone health.
The challenges faced by Bone Specialists –
Orthopedic doctors and surgeons typically treat broken bones using one or more of the following methods:
Traction – a steady pulling action to reposition and align a broken bone.
Reduction – a surgical procedure to restore a fractured or dislocated bone to the proper position.
Cast immobilization – most fractures can heal successfully once they are immobilized inside a plaster cast. Some may require repositioning first, using traction or reduction.
Internal or external fixation – using metal pins, screws and bars to fix bones in place while they heal, either on the inside or outside of the body.
However, bone repair isn’t always as simple as this. Healing can be delayed or stopped altogether by extensive trauma, bone loss, infection, ageing, premature mobilization, diabetes and osteonecrosis (a disease caused by reduced blood flow to bones in the joints, leading to bone death and breakdown). These factors can lead to non-union or non-healing fractures, which causes chronic pain and disability for patients. In these circumstances, re-establishing the structural integrity of the bones can be a major challenge for doctors.
Internal/external fixation and bone grafting are among the standard treatments used by doctors and surgeons to treat non-union factures. But these procedures come with risks and potential complications. Bone grafts don’t always ‘take’. Muscle and nerve damage, arthritis, stiffness, pain and bone infection can result from internal fixation. Future surgeries may be required. And external fixation can lead to pin tract infection, neurovascular damage and psychological consequences.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a simple and non-invasive alternative remedy that is widely used and recommended by doctors for enhancing healing of non-union fractures. It is also recommended for improving general bone health.
How does HBOT help to improve bone health and heal fractures?
HBOT involves breathing 100% pure oxygen at greater-than-normal atmospheric pressures. The extra oxygen combined with the pressure conditions increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This allows every single tissue in the body to become saturated with it.
HBOT is known to stimulate the production of collagen, a tough, fibrous material that fills the space between broken bones and helps ‘knit’ them back together. Hyperbaric oxygen also promotes fast growth of new capillaries in affected areas, which in turn brings more oxygen and nutrients to the bones.
In particular, additional oxygen increases production of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the cells vital for bone growth, healing and the removal of old, dead bone. Numerous animal studies have demonstrated that osteoblasts and osteoclasts are exquisitely reactive to increased oxygen. In 2007, D. Wu et al conducted an experiment for Connective Tissue Research , investigating in vitro the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on osteoblasts, the cells responsible for synthesizing bone. They observed that HBOT stimulated proliferation of osteoblasts, providing direct cellular evidence that HBOT is effective for fracture healing and bone growth.
HBOT is also scientifically proven to reduce swelling and inflammation, improve circulation, boost the immune system, and suppress infection. This is particularly important for tibia/fibular fractures, which have a poor blood supply. Additionally, HBOT helps bone grafts to ‘take’ and heal with fewer complications.
Its positive effects on bone and soft tissue regeneration have made hyperbaric oxygen a sought-after complementary therapy in the sporting community. The process is used by professional footballers and performance athletes for cutting their injury recovery times in half.
For instance, David Beckham fractured his foot on the pitch. Despite an estimated recovery time of 7 weeks, Beckham completed a course of HBOT sessions and was back on the pitch in just 3 weeks.
Further Research – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3382683/
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