In order to understand the full benefits that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has on healing burns, it is important to understand the four classifications for burns.
Classification of Burns
This is a superficial burn that only affects the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis). The burn site is red, painful and dry, but has no blistering. Mild sunburn is an example of a first degree burn. Long term tissue damage is rare and would only consist of a lightening or darkening in skin colour.
This is a partial-thickness burn. The epidermis and part of the dermis layer are damaged. The burn site will appear red, blistered and can be swollen looking and painful.
This is a full thickness burn where the epidermis and the dermis are destroyed.
This is a burn where the epidermis and the dermis are destroyed, and there is damage to the underlying tendon, muscle and bone. The burn site will appear white or charred. No sensation is felt in the area because the nerve endings have been destroyed and the blood vessels carrying needed oxygen have also been destroyed.
How Does HBOT Help With Burns?
The use of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is typically used on second and third degree burns.
In third degree burns, when the initial injury occurs, it is followed by a widening tissue loss, which means that the surrounding tissue of the affected area has been damaged because the blood vessels have been destroyed as a consequence of the burn. When the blood vessels are destroyed, the downstream of blood flow from the burn site stops, spreading further tissue death because of a lack of oxygen.
When tissue death occurs, the body will not recognize the tissue has its own and treat it like an invader. That jeopardized tissue becomes a target for its own immune system and will attack the dying and surrounding tissues, only resulting in more tissue death.
If HBOT is given within the first 48 to 72 hours of the burn injury, it can increase the oxygen saturation of the body up to 12 times of breathing air. This can mitigate the spread of tissue death and the possibility of any more tissue destruction beyond the affected area of the burn injury. Giving the body added oxygen can bring the damaged area ‘back to life’. Doing this will signal the body that the tissue is not a foreign invader, and normal wound healing processes will take place.
However, beyond the 72 hours, HBOT can still help by promoting new tissue growth, which will influence healing by aiding in the manufacturing of new blood vessels, which will then make fibroblasts that are responsible for the production of collagen.
The Benefits of HBOT
- Promotes new tissue growth, which in turn encourages healing by creating new blood vessels.
- Reduces the body’s inflammation which would have slowed down the healing process.
Offers infection control as oxygen is needed by the white blood cells to kill bacteria.
All credit goes to Burn Healing @ Ontario HBOT