Can Oxygen Therapy Heal Broken Bones? HBOT & Fractures

  • Pain Management
  • back pain - chronic pain
  • September 19, 2022

What if more oxygen therapy could speed up bone healing? Studies have shown that HBOT may improve patient recovery from fractures.

Can You Improve Bone Healing?

Millions of people suffer broken bones from accidents, sports collisions, or conditions like osteoporosis. When someone gets a fracture, the immediate goal is to set the bone back in place. Yet, surgery is just the start. The bone needs several weeks to heal, depending on factors like health and degree of injury, like in a compound fracture. What if there was a way to speed up that healing process? Doctors have seen great promise in using oxygen therapy, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), as part of the recovery.

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What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

When the body experiences an injury, oxygen is necessary to heal. Oxygen helps transport adequate blood supply, which contains inflammatory cells, stem cells, and other healing factors. However, the body only needs just over 20% pure oxygen for survival. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) revs the body’s oxygen supply by providing 100% oxygen for short periods. The oxygen increases by changing the atmospheric pressure, allowing injuries to heal faster and more effectively. Doctors initially used HBOT for decompression sickness, but scientists found value in wound healing, fractures, burns, and other severe injuries.

What should you expect during HBOT?

The patient typically requires at least 2 hours for the therapy. Jewelry, cell phones, and other metals are prohibited. Therefore, the patient may need a hospital gown or appropriate clothing. Next, the patient goes into a pressurized chamber or cabin. In a cabin, there may be other patients receiving treatment. An attendant will place an oxygen mask on the patient. Then the chamber is pressurized to at least 1.5 atmospheres absolute (ATA). The patient stays in the chamber for 30-minute intervals with rests in-between, up to 2 hours. Like any therapy, HBOT is an ongoing treatment that requires several sessions over a few weeks.

Can it help broken bones?

Oxygen therapy is usually recommended for patients with moderate to severe fractures that are not healing well. A surgeon will reset the bone and place a cast on the injury. However, patients can still experience pain and slow healing, which may lead to infection. Studies show that HBOT may help patients with severely broken bones. The treatment may reduce pain, speed up recovery, and help with new bone growth. HBOT treats bone infections, which also slows healing, by increasing the white blood cells needed to kill bacteria. Doctors recommend oxygen therapy and other treatments to maximize patient recovery.

Healing with oxygen

After a serious injury, the body needs to get as much oxygen and healing factors to the site as possible. Oxygen therapy is an innovative way to boost the body’s natural healing abilities. However, the procedure requires patience and consistency, as full results from HBOT can take at least 20 sessions. Achieving a fully healed, pain-free bone may just need some more oxygen.

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