Hyperbaric Oxygen and Plastic Surgery Results
Hyperbaric Oxygen, more commonly known as HBO, is an auxillary treatment that exposes patients to extraordinarily high levels of oxygen gas. Basically, patients are placed into a specialized tank and allowed to breathe 100% oxygen for about one to two hours. Because the tank is closed and pressurized up to two to three times normal atmospheric pressure, significantly higher concentrations of oxygen are forced into one’s blood stream. This in turn leads to much higher than normal levels of oxygen within the cells of all tissues in the body. The net result of the microscopic interactions is that the tissue will have a resulting increase in new blood vessel growth as well as an increase in tissue survival. Although the average patient will not need HBO treatments in order to have normal healing, some select patients MAY benefit from these effects.
Here are some examples of common problems in plastic surgery that may benefit from HBO therapy:
1) Former smokers, in general, will have poorer microscopic blood circulation in all tissues, including the skin.
2) Patients who present for revision breast surgery (#revisionbreastsurgery) who have significant skin scars, or even internal breast scars, will have less than normal blood flow to these tissues.
3) Patients who present for revision rhinoplasty (#revisionrhinoplasty) may also have reduced blood flow to the nasal tissues.
4) Patients who require significant cartilage grafting, in particular rib cartilage grafts, may have more swelling than the average rhinoplasty patient.
The clinical use of HBO therapy has not been clearly delineated in our surgical literature. Use of HBO stems from our knowledge of how HBO therapy has been shown to help other plastic surgery patient populations including people with threatened surgical flaps, ischemic limbs, burn injury and chronic wounds. The use of HBO in aesthetic surgery is an offshoot of these better known strategies. Although HBO may help to increase blood flow, diminish swelling, hasten the resolution of bruising, and reduce post-operative pain, most of these effects are anecdotal in nature. I have used HBO therapy in several different types of plastic surgery patients with very good success. In general I have noted reduced pain and swelling, and increased blood flow in certain compromised tissues. However, HBO is not without potential risk, so be sure to evaluate these risks with your hyperbaric physician.