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Wound Care

Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas

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Delayed Radiation Injury 

For decades, radiation therapy has been used as an effective treatment for a wide range of cancers. In fact, approximately half of all cancer cases involve radiation therapy as part of a treatment regimen. 

While radiation delivery technology has improved–which has allowed for more accurate targeting of tumors–damage to healthy tissue surrounding the cancer can occur. In some instances, can radiation-related injury occur months or even years after the treatment has concluded. This is known as delayed radiation injury?  

Delayed radiation injury most commonly occurs when radiation is used to treat cancers of the head, neck, breast, chest and pelvis (gynecological cancers). It is characterized by the destruction of blood vessels and replacement of healthy tissue cells with a thick, fibrous tissue.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT)   HBOT is a common treatment for certain kinds of wounds. According to a study by The Cochran Collaboration, it is one of the few–if not only–effective treatment options for delayed radiation injury. HBOT increases the amount of oxygen delivered to the damaged area and the number of blood vessels, improving circulation and the ability of cells to regenerate into healthy tissue thereby preventing cell death and the formation of fibroids.

 During the treatment, the patient is placed in an HBO chamber, which is pressurized above normal atmospheric pressure and filled with 100 percent pure oxygen for the patient to breathe. The result is an increase in the amount of oxygen in the patient’s blood stream/plasma, which promotes healing. Patients typically experience minimal discomfort.

A wound care specialist on the Baylor Dallas medical staff works with patients affected by delayed radiation injury to determine the duration and number of HBO sessions needed for effective treatment.