Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Cause Lung Inflammation?

Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Cause Lung Inflammation?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves treating a patient with 100% oxygen under pressure. In equine medicine some applications include promoting healing of deep wounds, joint injuries, and infections.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Editor's note: This article is part of TheHorse.com's ongoing coverage of topics presented at the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 - June 2 in New Orleans, La.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat a variety of conditions in equine medicine, but could this exposure to high levels of oxygen be causing lung inflammation in horses? One research team presented the results of study on the topic at a recent veterinary conference.

Renaud Léguillette, DMV, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of equine internal medicine at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, presented the findings that indicate hyperbaric oxygen appears safe for horses' lungs at the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 - June 2 in New Orleans, La.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves treating a patient with 100% oxygen under pressure. The process is designed to increase oxygen levels in blood plasma and promote higher delivery to all body tissues, including the injured area, to facilitate healing. In equine medicine some applications include promoting healing of deep wounds, joint injuries, and infections.

Léguillette explained that he and colleagues hypothesized that, because of oxygen toxicity, hyperbaric oxygen treatment would both induce lung inflammation and increase arterial oxygen levels when used in healthy horses.

Using a randomized crossover controlled study design, the team subjected eight healthy Thoroughbred horses to 20 minutes of 100% oxygen at three ATA (atmospheres absolute, atmospheric pressure at sea level is equal to 1 ATA; 3 ATA equals about 29.4 pounds per square inch above atmospheric pressure) for ten days. To evaluate changes within the horse's lungs, the team performed a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) before the study began and again at Day 10. Arterial blood parameters were evaluated immediately before and after hyperbaric oxygen treatment on Days 1 and 10.

The study results showed that:

  • Exposure to 100% oxygen caused a significant decrease in BAL cell counts but caused no changed in differential cell count (indicating little to no inflammation in the lungs);
  • Arterial blood parameters before and after treatment were not significantly different on Days 1 and 10; and
  • During treatment, PaO2 levels increased significantly, but returned to normal within 10 minutes of treatment ending.

"These study results suggest that hyperbaric oxygen reaches extremely high blood-oxygenation levels very transiently and does not induce inflammation in the lungs of horses," he concluded.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, News Editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado, and enjoys photography in her spare time.

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