Delayed Radiation Injury


Soft tissue and bony necrosis

While radiation therapy kills cancerous cells, sometimes normal cells including blood vessel, muscle and nerve cells are affected. Over time, the cells in the radiated tissue lose much of their oxygen content causing scarring, increased risk of infection, ulceration, bone necrosis, and poor wound healing of accidental or surgical wounds from breast reconstruction or dental work. Abnormal radiated tissue can cause other health conditions like fistulas (abnormal tracts or openings) in the body. Common conditions include radiation induced cystitis (inflamed bladder) and proctitis (inflammation of the rectum lining).

An article in The New England Journal of Medicine (June 20, 1996) cites a study that showed “in irradiated tissue, hyperbaric oxygen is more effective than normobaric oxygen (100 percent oxygen at 1 atmosphere of pressure) in increasing the partial pressure of oxygen to a level that promotes the formation of collagen matrix and angiogenesis.”

The American Cancer Society states “research has shown hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective when used in addition to conventional therapy for the prevention and treatment of bone damage caused by radiation therapy (osteoradionecrosis).”

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works to grow new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and fibroblasts (cells that promote healing by producing collagen) to bring about radiated tissue wound healing.