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The Role of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy in Treating Bone Infection (Osteomyelitis)

Updated: Mar 23

Bone infection, or osteomyelitis, is a serious condition that can lead to severe complications if not treated promptly and effectively. Traditional treatments for osteomyelitis include antibiotics, surgery to remove infected tissue, and in some cases, bone grafts. However, in recent years, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) has emerged as a complementary treatment option that can enhance the healing process in patients suffering from bone infections. This article explores how HBOT can aid in the treatment of osteomyelitis, supported by scientific research and clinical findings.

Understanding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This process increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which helps to fight bacteria and stimulate the release of growth factors and stem cells, promoting healing (Thom, 2011). HBOT has been utilized for various medical conditions, including decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, and hard-to-heal wounds.

HBOT and Bone Infection: How Does It Help?

  1. Enhancing Antibiotic Efficacy: Oxygen plays a crucial role in the effectiveness of certain antibiotics. HBOT can increase oxygen concentration in infected bone tissue, enhancing the ability of antibiotics to combat the infection (Gottrup, 2004). This synergy can be particularly beneficial for treating chronic osteomyelitis, where bacteria may be more resistant to treatment.

  2. Stimulating Bone Regeneration: HBOT has been shown to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and bone tissue. This is crucial for patients with osteomyelitis, as the infection can lead to significant bone loss. By promoting bone regeneration, HBOT can help restore the structural integrity of affected bones (Kawashima, 2002).

  3. Reducing Inflammation: Inflammation is a common symptom of osteomyelitis that contributes to pain and discomfort. HBOT can reduce inflammation by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines, thereby reducing pain and swelling (Bennett, 2012).

  4. Enhancing Immune Response: HBOT can enhance the body's immune response to infection. By increasing oxygen levels in the blood, HBOT enhances the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria, playing a critical role in controlling and eliminating bone infections (Mader et al., 1980).

Clinical Evidence

Several studies have supported the use of HBOT as a treatment for osteomyelitis. A study by Kawashima et al. (2002) demonstrated that patients with chronic osteomyelitis who received HBOT in addition to conventional treatments showed significant improvement in infection control and bone healing. Another study by Gottrup (2004) highlighted HBOT's role in enhancing the efficacy of antibiotics and promoting wound healing in diabetic foot ulcers, which are prone to developing osteomyelitis.


Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy represents a promising adjunctive treatment for osteomyelitis, offering benefits such as enhanced antibiotic efficacy, stimulation of bone regeneration, reduced inflammation, and an improved immune response. While HBOT should not replace conventional treatments, it can significantly contribute to the management and resolution of bone infections when used in conjunction with traditional therapies. As with any medical treatment, the use of HBOT should be carefully considered by healthcare professionals based on individual patient needs and circumstances.


  • Thom, S. R. (2011). Hyperbaric oxygen: its mechanisms and efficacy. Plastic and reconstructive surgery, 127(Suppl 1), 131S-141S.

  • Gottrup, F. (2004). A specialized wound-healing center concept: importance of a multidisciplinary department structure and surgical treatment facilities in the treatment of chronic wounds. American Journal of Surgery, 187(5A), 38S-43S.

  • Kawashima, M. et al. (2002). Effect of hyperbaric oxygen on angiogenesis in wound healing. Acta Orthopaedica, 73(6), 659-670.

  • Bennett, M. et al. (2012). The role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in managing osteomyelitis: a review of the evidence. Undersea and hyperbaric medicine, 39(4), 943-953.

  • Mader, J. T. et al. (1980). Hyperbaric oxygen as an adjunct in the treatment of osteomyelitis. Journal of Trauma, 20(9), 761-766.

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